Government has revealed the Criminal Offences Act 29 of 1960 will be amended to classify corruption as a felony rather than a misdemeanor.
Speaking at a Good Corporate Governance Conference in Accra on Tuesday, Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia said the move is part of efforts to enhance accountability within the public sector.
Dr. Bawumia was particular about amendments to Section 3, 151,239 and 257.
Section 239 under the tittle —Corruption, etc. of and by Public officer, or Juror – states;
(1) Every public officer or juror who commits corruption, or wilful oppression, or extortion, in respect of the duties of his office, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour.
(2) Whoever corrupts any person in respect of any duties as a public officer or juror shall be guilty of a misdemeanour.
The Criminal And Other Offences (Procedure) Act – 1960 (Act 30) explains punishment for offences deemed criminal or a misdemeanor.
Where the punishment for a felony is not stated, it could attract a life sentence if it is a first-degree felony. If it is a second-degree felony, the punishment could be a sentence not more than 10 years.
A misdemeanor like corruption if the exact punishment is not stated can attract a jail term of not exceeding three years.
The announcement of amendment plans is expected to be seen as progress for groups like the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) which has been criticizing Ghana’s anti-graft fight was weak partly because of existing laws.
A leading member of pressure group OccupyGhana Ace Ankomah has also ridiculed the quality of legislations in the fight against corruption.
“Fighting corruption in the country is a joke because the law has made corruption a misdemeanor which does not attract heavy punishment; stealing a goat may attract harsher punishment than corruption and that is not the fault of the judge because corruption is just misdemeanor and it is the lowest grade of offenses….that’s why I call it a joke” he said on Accra-based Oman FM in 2014.
An amendment to the law is expected to get bi-partisan support considering comments by the former Majority leader and current Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament Alban S.K Bagbin.
“We must change that law; we must amend the Criminal Offences Act,” he said in 2013.
The NPP government during the 2016 elections promised to make corruption a “high-risk activity” stressing that Ghana is not a poor country but a country whose resources are poorly managed.