General News of Friday, 10 March 2017
Government has reiterated its decision to amend sections of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 to make corruption and other related offences felonies instead of misdemeanours under the current statutes.
It said the decision was to deter public servants from illegally enriching themselves with state funds.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo reiterated his government’s position in a statement read on his behalf at the opening of a two-day conference on governance and law as part of activities to mark Ghana 60yearson.
It was organised by the Law Faculty of the University of Professional Studies (UPSA) in Accra yesterday.
The conference brought together academics, scholars, researchers, human rights activists, legal practitioners, policy makers and opinion leaders to discuss governance and law.
The conference is being held on the theme: “Ghana @60: Evolution of law, democratic governance, human rights and future prospects.”
Felony and Misdemeanour
Among the five degrees of offences recognised in Ghana are felony, which is categorised into first and second degrees, and misdemeanour.
First-degree felonies are punishable by life imprisonment and are limited to manslaughter, rape, and mutiny, while second-degree felonies are punishable by, but not limited to, 10 years of imprisonment and include intentional and unlawful harm to persons, perjury and robbery.
Misdemeanour is punishable by various terms of imprisonment and includes offences such as assault, theft, unlawful assembly, official corruption and public nuisances.
Holding public officers to account
President Akufo-Addo submitted that failure of the state to hold public officers to account, particularly when it related to corruption, was something that stakeholders had to be ashamed of.
He said corruption undoubtedly remained the bane of the economic development and progress of the nation.
“Sadly, corruption is merely categorised as a misdemeanour by virtue of Section 239 of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960(Act 29). The proliferation of corrupt public officials, for example, has weakened the legitimacy, effectiveness, efficiency of state institutions and most importantly destroyed the trust relationship that must exist between the government and the people,” he said.
The President did not mince words when he said that his government would not tolerate any criminal act from public office holders, hence the decision to amend the Criminal Offences Act, 1960.
To effectively deal with the canker of corruption, especially by public officials, President Akufo–Addo underscored the need for institutional reforms to complement the proposed legislative reforms.
“To this end, as I have already stated publicly, it is the intention of my government to establish an office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP),” he said.
He assured the public that the OSP would be truly independent as promised and help to break the monopoly of prosecutional authority currently exercised by the Attorney-General.
President Akufo–Addo said the OSP would, therefore, be responsible for initiating, investigating and prosecuting cases of corruption involving public office holders, breaches of the Public Procurement Act, the Financial Administration Act, among other responsibilities.
“It is my fervent belief that such initiatives will play no small part in vigorously fighting corruption because it is incumbent upon us and imperative that we root out corruption in this country by nipping it in the bud once and for all,” he said.
Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh (left), Minister of Education, in a dialogue with Justice Prof Akua Kuenyehia (middle), President of MountCrest University College. Looking on is Prof Abednego Okoe Feehi Amartey, Vice-Chancellor of University of Professional Studies (UPSA). Picture: Maxwell Ocloo
Criminal justice system needs overhaul
President Akufo-Addo was of the opinion that the criminal justice system needed a fundamental reform to ensure that it served its overarching purpose.
Citing the problem of remand prisoners, he said the problem had bedevilled the administration of justice delivery for far too long.
“It is about time we took decisive action to end this vicious cycle once and for all,” he said.
He submitted that some proposals for the reforms had already been made by stakeholders, including the introduction of the non-custodial sentences which sought to institutionalise community service programmes for certain petty offences, which would serve the dual purpose of providing the appropriate punishment for an offence while getting some public good out of the service that would be required of the convict.
“My government will closely consider these and all other proposals that have been advocated over the years and fashion out a policy framework that will lead to the complete overhaul and reformation of the criminal justice system of Ghana,” he said.
The President commended the UPSA for the initiative which he was optimistic would prove useful by contributing to the further growth and development of Ghanaian law and justice system.
Delivering the keynote address, Professor Emeritus Samuel O Gyandoh Jnr said 60 years in the life of a country was good enough for the people to pause and review activities in the past and the present to be able to chart a better path for an enhanced future.
He gave an overview of the country’s history, particularly in relation to governance.
In his submission, the Dean of the Faculty of Law of the UPSA, Professor Kwame Frimpong, mentioned lawlessness as the genesis of all the problems facing the country after 60 years of attaining political independence.
He attributed corruption, sanitation, injustice and the many other problems the country was saddled with to the weak implementation of laws.
He was optimistic that if the government, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, would ensure effective implementation of legislations, 70 per cent of the country’s problems would be solved.
In his welcome address, the Vice Chancellor of the UPSA, Professor Abednego Okoe Feehi Amartey, said the strictly knowledge-based educational system practised in Ghana at the tertiary level had for many years denied graduates the requisite job skills they required to fit into the job market.
He said as a leading university in the country mandated to offer both academic and professional programmes, the institution was anxious to partner the government to create job opportunities in the country by providing high quality and relevant business and professional education.