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Ghana’s new anti-corruption tsar formally takes office

L/R: Ghanaian Special Prosecutor Martin Amidu and President Nana Akufo Addo

ACCRA, Ghana – The Government of Ghana on Friday officially appointed a new special prosecutor to probe corruption claims.

Investigating and holding accountable individuals who abused their official capacities to engage in public theft has been a key pledge of President Nana Akufo-Addo’s government.

A former attorney general and justice minister, Martin Amidu, was formally sworn in as special prosecutor at a ceremony in the Ghanaian capital, Accra.

President Akufo-Addo said he expects the newly inducted chief prosecutor to work “vigorously, with courage, without fear or favor, ill-will or malice, in accordance with the rule of law”.

“The establishment of this office is for a high purpose and must not under any circumstances be used as an avenue for persecution or vengeance,” he added.

The nomination was sent to parliament which approved and confirmed Amidu, 66, a veteran politician and anti-corruption campaigner, to take up the duties.

Amidu, who ran unsuccessfully with John Atta Mills in the 2000 presidential elections, is regarded as a no-nonsense politician and anti-corruption crusader.

His prosecutorial appointment to probe allegations of corruption comes as Ghana slipped three points in the global watchdog Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perception Index.

According to Transparency International, the West African nation scored 40 out of 100 on perceived levels of public sector corruption in 2017, where a score of 100 indicates corruption-free.

In 2016, Ghana scored 43/100 and 47/100 in 2015. These scores are embarrassing to some African nations and leaders who want to portray good governance, especially in the wake of the recognition granted by the Ibrahim Prize, an African version of the Nobel Prize for good governance.

Beauty Emefa Narteh, the executive secretary of the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition, said Transparency International’s report was “a wake-up call” and showed that Amidu’s appointment was needed.

In his state-of-the-nation address earlier this month, President Akufo-Addo said that the special prosecutor’s role was “an essential step in our overall strategy to combat corruption.”

Amidu will investigate and prosecute corruption in the private and public sectors, streamlining what the government said were “institutional bottlenecks” in the fight against graft.

Narteh said inflated contracts had been a major issue in the government of former president John Dramani Mahama, President Akufo-Addo’s predecessor.

Most cases, including a high-profile exposure of bribe-taking by judges and court workers to sway verdicts, had not yet seen criminal prosecutions, she added

The newly appointed corruption prosecutor has said he wants to change a culture of corruption in Ghana. “It is an invisible violence that kills millions without anybody seeing it,” he told a parliamentary hearing weeks ago.

“Taking millions of cedis (dollars) for oneself under illegal circumstances deprives people of good health, education and all the developmental facilities you can give,” he added.

“What I want to do is to be able to set up a credible institution with a credible culture which will be able to block the leakages and seepages.”

Political analysts and economic commentators say preventing corruption at the ports alone could help Ghana reduced its minimum reliance on foreign aid, he added.

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Dave Okonjie

Dave Okonjie is a public affairs analyst, researcher and senior issues correspondent.

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