The woes of a Special Prosecutor- 17 months on
In seven months it will be twenty-four months- One year since Mr. Kissi Agyebeng assumed office as Special Prosecutor. This means he has been in office for 17 months.
On August 5, 2021 President Akufo-Addo swore him in as Special Prosecutor to the applause of many anti-corruption crusaders.
Before handing over the scroll of office to Mr. Agyebeng, President Akufo-Addo tasked him to fight corruption no matter whose ox is gored.
“I ask the new Special Prosecutor to bear in mind at all times that the Office carries an extraordinary responsibility to fight corruption independently and impartially. Indeed all institutions of state will work and cooperate with him in the same spirit which he articulated at his approval proceedings in Parliament,” the President promised.
Here is the part that is of essence to this article, “the Executive and the Attorney-General will respect the independence of his office and provide him with whatever assistance is required to enable him to discharge his duties effectively.”
While the praise singers applauded President Akufo-Addo and Kissi Agyebeng, there were those who derided the appointment. They questioned Mr. Agyebeng’s capacity to deliver on the mandate. I was one of them. Some had issues with his age but I had qualms due to his publicly known relationship with the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Godfred Yeboah Dame. And I did not hide it.
I wrote an article titled ‘Have a friend, Kissi Agyebeng has one.’ Here are excerpts:
Kissi Agyebeng’s friend
Ghana’s new Special Prosecutor, Mr. Kissi Agyebeng’s Friendis called, Mr. Godfred Yeboah Dame. He is the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of the Republic of Ghana.
Mr. Dame and Mr. Agyebeng were class mates in Law School. That’s where they became Friends. Mr Agyebeng said he is a year older than Mr Dame. In a nutshell, they go way back.
It came to pass that on July 22, 2021, the 43-year-old was vetted by the Appointment’s Committee of Parliament. After the vetting, I was tasked to write a story on things we learnt from Kissi Agyebeng’s vetting. I did. Later, I realised that I left out one key lesson that I learnt. That is, Have a Friend.
If your Friend can elevate you from, a position of a Private Legal Practitioner, to the country’s most trusted corruption preventer, detector and prosecutor, then there is definitely something good about having a Friend.
And knowing what I know about politicians, my mind is not at peace with you Mr Agyebeng as the Special Prosecutor. Not that I don’t trust you, because I don’t even know you. But.
For instance, will you be able to look your friend and benefactor of your current status, Mr Dame, in the face and tell him that, ‘that’ Minister, who is the President’s Friend, has been found to have used his/her office for personal gain, so you want to investigate and prosecute?
Mr Agyebeng, you definitely are between the rock and a hard place. I say so because the politicians that I know will, at the least, not give you funds to operate with, if you dare touch any of their anointed. I hope we don’t get there, but my gut feeling indicates otherwise.”
Lo and behold!! Two recent happenings are tending to prove my initial trepidations right.
16 months without salary alert
In my article alluded to above, I assumed in the closing paragraphs that the Special Prosecutor would have received his first salary. So I wrote, “Mr Agyebeng, it has been one month since you started work. Your salary alert for August, 2021, from the Controller and Accountant General’s Department, should be hitting your bank account any moment from now, if not already.”
I was wrong. That’s because in December, 2022, news broke that Mr Agyebeng and some of his staff have not been paid their salaries after 16 months in office.
Somehow, this information did not come directly from the Special Prosecutor. I guess having worked with the famous Anas Aremeyaw Anas for some time, he purportedly used the ‘leaked document’ route.
So, “Exclusive documents available to JoyNews indicate that the Special Prosecutor, Kissi Agyebeng and his staff are yet to receive their salaries, 16 months after assuming office. According to the said documents, only the Deputy Special Prosecutor has been paid; leaving other staff of the office agitated.
The documents capture the Special Prosecutor, Kissi Agyebeng, as saying that the situation can potentially derail the fight against corruption, since the unpaid staff are left in a vulnerable state. He, therefore, wants urgent steps taken to rectify the existing compensation issues within his Office.” That is how myjoyonline.com reported the issue.
After this reportage, I expected Mr. Agyebeng to confirm or deny it. That did not happen. But if the saying that, ‘silence means consent’ is anything to go by, then it is the truth. The journalist in me therefore sought and found out from usually reliable sources that the amount Mr. Agyebeng is demanding as salary is way more than what has been allocated to the position in the approved salary structure for the post, hence the stalemate.
This assertion was corroborated by his predecessor, Mr. Martin Alamisi Amidu, “My information is that the SP has not been paid because he is asking for a higher personalized salary than that offered him,” Mr. Amidu said in a rejoinder to the news story alluded to above.
For me, this raises the question whether Mr. Agyebeng was given an appointment letter, which he accepted before being sworn in? I guess this is common HR practice in the public service. You are given an appointment letter with salary and other conditions of service well spelt out by the Public Services Commission and asked to accept within a specified timeframe or consider it void. The question is, why is Mr. Agyebeng’s case different?
Could it be that Mr. Agyebeng got his brief about public service wrong? From what I know, unlike the private sector where you can negotiate your salary, the public service has predetermined salary levels for every position. Thus, depending on your knowledge and experience, you are placed on a particular step on the salary scale. So, how come Mr. Agyebeng wants to dictate how much he should be paid in the Public Service?
Again Mr. Amidu, in the rejoinder aforementioned, confirmed other information I picked up to the effect that the staff who have not been paid are persons Mr. Agyebeng brought from his private law firm- Cromwellgray LLP, to work with him at the Office of the Special Prosecutor without recourse to Public Service procedures.
“Whosoever provided documents to JoyNews should have included my petition dated 31 August, 2022 to the Chairman of the Public Services Commission on the unconstitutional appointment of permanent staff to the Office of the Special Prosecutor contrary to Section 21 of Act 959 and Article 195 of the 1992 Constitution,” Mr. Amidu wrote.
How is this possible? Was the question I posed to myself.
If these revelations are anything to go by, then it looks to me that Mr. Agyebeng has not been properly orientated into the Public Service. There, you apply to the Ministry of Finance for clearance, obtain it, advertise the positions, receive applications, interview and recruit. Afterwards, you submit the names of the staff together with your warrant to employ to the Controller and Accountant-General’s Department for enrollment onto the payroll.
You do not do what is referred to in football parlance as ‘fr3fr3 kobo’- gather people to play, in the Public Service. The intention may be genuine but the law does not allow it. Mr. Agyebeng the lawyer can therefore not be seen to be breaking the law. It is unlawful.
That said, I am beginning to suspect that Mr Agyebeng is one of those public servants who fail to realise that what they occupy is public, not personal office. Remember his decision to use a gold-plated letterhead? Well, I have noticed that the golden nature has reduced in the one I saw recently though.
Are we ready to fight corruption? I don’t think so!
Freedom of expression is a phrase that means each one of us can say whatever they want at any time. However, there are legal limitations. Similarly, there are some statements that some people are least expected to make.
For instance, what would you think of a pastor who tells you, “I can’t pray for a thief?” Or a journalist who witnesses a ghastly accident with several casualties but says, “I will be late to work so I can’t cover this?.” It would be shocking, wouldn’t it?
Well, that’s how I felt when I heard Mr. Agyebeng say on NewsFile on Saturday 31st December, 2022 that, “On the part of the government, is the government ready for the fight against corruption? From where I sit, I have not seen much. I have not seen much commitment. I have heard lip service on too many occasions paid to the fight against corruption.”
The kind of things Mr. Agyebeng has seen for him to come to this conclusion can only be imagined. And in the process of imagining, I saw Mr Agyebeng in Mr. Dame’s office. The following dialogue ensued:
Godfred: Kissi, you are welcome. Sorry I have not been able to make time for this meeting all this while.
Kissi: At a point I felt you were trying to avoid me. Anyway, that is understandable. We are all in this together, aren’t we?
Godfred: You are right.
Kissi: I have been doing some thinking lately and since you are the one who put me to this, I thought of coming to see you.
Godfred: Well, let’s hear it.
Kissi: Godfred, do you think your people are committed to fighting corruption?
Kissi: I am not seeing anything ooo!
Kissi: Look at this National Cathedral issue.
Kissi: As for Charles Bissue we have finished and it is not looking good.
Kissi: Then Charles Adu Boahen.
Kissi: Ah! Is that all you can say?
Kissi: Then I am wasting my time here, because there is Akonta Mining and the wealthy businessman who visited Parliament.
Godfred: Hey! Please don’t go there.
End of imagination.
It’s time to go
No matter what may have prompted Mr. Agyebeng to question Government’s commitment to fighting corruption, I still hold my prophecy to be true. That Mr. Agyebeng, is currently between the rock and a hard place.
If he and his staff’s salary issues have not been resolved, it goes without saying that the lofty plans that he laid out, including the OSP owning a forensic laboratory, have fallen through.
Whether or not the quest to do these will come to pass, remains to be seen:
“I would institute what I call ‘Pressure for Progress’, and in this quest, there is going to be a systemic review of all public agencies and the development of integrity plans. I intend to set up a Public Corruption Perception Index to rank public sector agencies against each other to know which institution is performing well and which institution is not doing well, in terms of corruption. I will be engaging investigative journalists in respect to my work if given the nod.”
What I see now is that Mr. Agyebeng’s premonition during his vetting was right- “Honourable Chair, I’m not naive to assume that I am coming to stop corruption, there’s no way I can stop corruption. God himself will not even acclaim to that.”
I guess it is for this reason that he said on the aforementioned Newfile programme that, “If we want to fight corruption, we must all get involved” and pledged that the OSP will protect all those who provide information on corrupt practices.
From the current seemingly deflated ego of Mr. Agyebeng, I will not be surprised if sooner than later, we wake up to an announcement that he has resigned.
Another possible declaration is the scrapping of the Office of the Special Prosecutor.
If these happen, then another of my predictions would have come true –“the politicians that I know will, at the least, not give you funds to operate with, if you dare touch any of their anointed.”
Sayonara- That’s good bye in Japanese.
Let God Lead! Follow Him directly, not through any human.