Special Prosecutor, Williams Kissi Agyebeng, has said that the 2022 budget allocation to his office is below his expectation, as that is not enough to fund the numerous ideas and projects the Office has in mind.
The Herald in November reported that the Cabinet has slashed the budget of Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) from GHC1.2 billion to GHC81 million.
Following The Herald’s expose, the officer was given GHS 170,504,000 in the 2022 budget, but GHS65, 000,000 of the amount is for the compensation of employees.
This paper had reported that the OSP and Finance Ministry, had a budget hearing in September, but the hearing was terminated for a decision to be taken at the highest level when it became apparent that there was a considerable gap between what was required by the OSP to set up and operationalize, the Office and the indicated budget ceiling of GHc80 million offered by the Ministry.
MrAgyebeng, who had remained silent over this matter, is now talking, saying though he will not give up due to challenges with funding, under-resourcing is a major obstacle to the corruption fight.
“Without money, we can’t do anything. We will be reduced to writing long letters without any force,” he warned.
Speaking at a press conference to commemorate international anti-corruption day, he explained that “various divisions ought to be established on the ground; finance, administration, operations, investigations, prosecutions, strategies, communications, asset recovery, and management. All these have to be instituted.
“In respect of all these, without money, we cannot do this,” Mr. Agyebang added.
But the Special Prosecutor said he is looking forward to the funds being made available.
“What was put there, I have seen, but it doesn’t match up to my expectations, but I cannot give up.”
“I do not see it as a closed case. I will keep pushing, we will keep pushing, and we will keep engaging, so we get the necessary resources to fund our operations,” he said.
Mr. Agyebeng, has in the past indicated his desire to make research and communications, the engine of the Special Prosecutor’s office under his tenure.
The Special Prosecutor, however, commended the government for its efforts in helping to operationalise the office.
The Special Prosecutor, had said that as part of efforts to prevent corruption, the office will from January 2022 carry out an anti-corruption risk assessment on all major government contracts as well as the publication of a corruption perception index on all public institutions.
He said the office “will in due course commence the prosecution of the cases it considers strong. There is no case commenced by the OSP pending in the courts at the moment.”
The first special prosecutor, Martin Amidu, had prior to his resignation, complained several times about inadequate resources for the office, saying the government was not honestly committed to the corruption fight.
The Herald reported that in a little over three years since the OSP was established, the Office was not set up and operationalized, largely because it appeared the first occupant of the position did not see it as his duty to do so.
The set up and operationalization process, commenced in August 2021, upon the assumption of office of the current Special Prosecutor, Kissi Agyebeng.
The OSP, has estimated that it will require 1.2 billion cedis, made of up largely non-recurrent expenditure to commence work including retrofitting and partitioning its new office complex, installation of servers to monitor transactions at vantage points in the country, interrogation rooms, internet infrastructure, filing and record keeping systems, building of a forensic laboratory, a cyber-security laboratory, a call/complaints centre, cells, and the recruitment and training of at least 250 staff as part of its initial set up, without which the office can nearly fight corruption.
The request is largely made up of a component of one-off non-recurrent expenditure, which means it will not require this budget in subsequent years after setting up and operationalization of the office. The OSP is reported to have intimated that it was workable if its suppliers could be comforted with multi-year payment contracts to enable them supply and install the required equipment and machinery.
However, it has emerged that at a meeting of Cabinet held on Thursday October28, 2021, the Ministry of Finance, convinced Cabinet that the OSP’s requirements for setting up and operationalizing the Office are irrelevant and so the Office should do with 81 million cedis. In effect, the needs and requirements of the OSP, are not necessary at the moment.
Interestingly, the 2018 budget made a provision of 250 million cedis for the OSP. However, the first Special Prosecutor, never accessed the funds. So the Office was not set up and operationalized and not a single person was recruited. This trend led the Ministry of Finance to slash the budget of the OSP on the assumption that the Office did not require the voted funds. The Ministry kept slashing till it got to 80 million cedis in 2020.
Anti-corruption watchers have expressed worry about the indicated budget of 81 million cedis at a time that the Office is readying itself for full scale operation and the initial staff of 250 are about to be recruited and trained without any regard to the actual and real needs of the Office but proceeding on merely on its old assumption that the funds were not required because the first Special Prosecutor was not utilizing it.
The OSP is still without a Board, and the new Special Prosecutor indicated in a radio interview a few weeks ago that he cannot do much, if the OSP is not adequately resourced and the recruitment and other processes would have to await the appointment of a board.
The OSP, currently does not have a single personnel of its own, except the Special Prosecutor and the Deputy Special Prosecutor.