General News of Tuesday, 25 July 2017
The Minority in Parliament has for the third time insisted the Office of the Special Prosecutor’s Bill must be withdrawn from Parliament with immediate effect.
The leader of the Minority Haruna Iddrisu said while the spirit behind the Bill may be well intended, it was improperly laid before the House.
He is demanding that the Attorney-General goes through the full process by which a bill is laid before the House for consideration.
According to the Constitution, a bill must be published and gazette at least 14 days before it will be deemed to have matured to be laid before the House.
However, a Deputy Attorney-General Joseph Dindiok Kpemka under a certificate of urgency laid the Bill last week only for it to be rejected three days later by the Constitutional, Legal Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament.
The committee made up of both NPP and NDC members said the Bill did not fall within the category of Bills brought before the House under a certificate of urgency.
The Minority Leader is, therefore, asking that due process is followed in laying the controversial Bill before the House, Joy News’ Parliamentary correspondent Joseph Opoku Gakpo reported.
According to him, the Bill was only gazetted on July 14, 2017 and could only mature on the 28 of July according to the 14-day rule.
The 14-day breach is the latest twist to a Bill whose passage into law has triggered some amount of controversy.
The Office of the Special Prosecutor is a campaign promise by the Nana Akufo-Addo-led NPP to take away some of the prosecutorial duties of the Attorney-General who is often deemed to be influenced politically and hand same over to an independent Office of the Special Prosecutor.
The rationale is to avoid the never ending stories and allegations of political witch-hunting which has bedevilled prosecutions of political officers in the past.
However, the creation of the Special Prosecutor’s office, some believe, contravenes Article 88 of the 1992 Constitution.
Article 88 of the 1992 Constitution states:
(1) There shall be an Attorney-General of Ghana who shall be a Minister of State and the principal legal adviser to the Government.
(2) The Attorney-General shall discharge such other duties of a legal nature as may be referred or assigned to him by the President, or imposed on him by this Constitution or any other law.
(3) The Attorney-General shall be responsible for the initiation and conduct of all prosecutions of criminal offences.
(4) All offences prosecuted in the name of the Republic of Ghana shall be at the suit of the Attorney-General or any other person authorised by him in accordance with any law.
(5) The Attorney-General shall be responsible for the institution and conduct of all civil cases on behalf of the State; and all civil proceedings against the State shall be instituted against the Attorney-General as defendant.
Critics believe the Special Prosecutor’s office will be usurping the powers of the Attorney General, which is unconstitutional.
They have suggested that for such a bill to meet the constitutional dictates, there has to be a referendum to have Article 88, which is an entrenched provision, amended.
Some have also argued that a Bill can be brought before the House under the authority of the Attorney General seeking to create an agency of state that will handle all prosecutions.
The government has adopted the latter option but will first have to cross the 14-day hurdle before the debates ensue in Parliament.