The government has been called upon to make the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) independent of control to give it clout to become effective in investigating crimes including those suspected of sitting appointees.
Prof. Atsu Ayee, a political scientist made the call today July 10, 2019 in Accra at a stakeholders meeting organized by the EOCO to share information about its operations to the public. The EOCO, hitherto, has been mystified. Indeed, some of the participants used the word ‘monster’ to describe the organization established to fight economic and financial crimes. This meeting is the first ever in the history of the organization’s existence.
Prof. Ayee said to make EOCO effective, it must be removed from the Attorney-General’s Department, made into a Commission, like its counterpart in Nigeria, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
“There is a mismatch between the expectations of internal stakeholders and external stakeholders,” he said and urged the Office to work to move away from the negative perception that it is being used for political witch-hunting.
Clara Beeri Kasser-Tee, a legal practitioner in her contributions, noted that giving appointees of the Office security of tenure is important in making EOCO independent.
Mr. William Nyarko, the Executive Director of ACILA, said that independence for EOCO must be provided by law and practice. “We need to change the law that says EOCO must submit its reports to the Minister. That must change,” he added.
He called on the Public Affairs unit to be visible, interact with journalists and editors and build the capacity of journalists about its work.
Justice Sir Dennis Adjei, an Appeals Court judge, adding his voice to the calls to make EOCO independent, called for the amendment of the law to make the Office independent, noting that “the power to appoint and the power to dismiss,” makes it difficult for officials of the office to do their job because they are afraid they would lose their jobs.
EOCO recovers over GH¢99m
The Office announced at the meeting that it has retrieved GH¢99,165,362.29 being proceeds of crime from 2014 to March 2019.
According to its director, COP Frank Adu-Poku (Rtd), EOCO has investigated 1,855 cases within the same period, and they include cases of tax fraud, personation, defrauding by false pretences, money laundering, prohibited cyber activities including romance scams, bank fraud, payroll fraud and human trafficking.
In his address, he pointed out that with the passage of time and challenges with the emergence and speed of technology, gaps within the initial law setting up the Office, the Serious Fraud Office Act, 1993 (Act 466) began to emerge. He indicated that the Act 466 restricted the Office to dealing with matters only involving the State and where it had an interest.
“Secondly, it lacked the mandate to deal with organized crime and so lacked the power to recover proceeds of crime. The time for confirmation of freezing directive by the Court was restricted to be within seven days as compared to the current status of 14 days,” he said.
He stated that the calls by the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) yielded positive results leading to the enactment of the Economic and Organised Crime Office Act, 2010 (Act 804) with broader mandate to deal with economic and financial crimes in its expanded form and also organized crimes and money laundering and prosecute these crimes on the authority of the Attorney-General.
He said while some issues raised by the CDD-Ghana have been addressed, the need to create a separate source of funding for the Office and grant it the right to retain a percentage of the monies recovered has not been addressed; neither has the right to retain a percentage of monies recovered by the Office been adequately addressed.
“Although section 66 of Act 804 provides some relief as the Courts are empowered to direct some payments out of the proceeds of realizable property to defray the expenses of the Office, it is not enough,” he said.
Prosecutions and convictions
During the period-under-review, 102 cases investigated by EOCO have been prosecuted. Four persons were discharged and 12 convictions were obtained.
EOCO secured convictions in the Maurice Asola-Fadola case. The convicted fraudster represented himself variously as a US Army General serving in Iraq or a businessman and succeeded in defrauding several people online, mostly women. Following his conviction, his landed property valued at GH¢456,000 has been confiscated to the state.
The Office also secured conviction against Eric Afoakwa, who misrepresented himself and took monies from remitters. An amount of £67,000 has been confiscated in this case.
Others are Christopher Nimako, jailed for five years in hard labour, Mandy Afari Gyan, imprisoned for four years in hard labour and Mathias Appiah, alias Delali Vettel who was jailed for 2 years in hard labour and a four-wheel drive Ford vehicle confiscated to the state.
EOCO investigated the case involving Philip Assibit and Abuga Pele and they have been jailed 12 years and six years in hard labour respectively.
Mr. Adu-Poku noted that the Office is doing everything it can to deal with deviant behavior of its officers.
“I concede that the perception that some of its officers are corrupt will continue to remain so far as our officers do not live above reproach,” he said.
He indicated that between 2017 and 2019, seven officers have been dismissed on charges of extortion and conflict of interest after going through disciplinary proceedings.
“Currently, three officers are on interdiction for various offences and are facing disciplinary proceedings,” he said.
The EOCO is mandated by law to prevent and detect organized crime and generally to facilitate the confiscation of the proceeds of crime and on authority of the Attorney-General, prosecute these offences to recover proceeds of crimes and other related matters.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
Copyright ©2019 by Creative Imaginations Publicity
All rights reserved. This article or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in reviews.
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Cabinet approves proposals for academic user fees
Dr Mathew Opoku Prempeh, the Minister of Education, has announced that cabinet has approved proposals for a review of academic user fees of students.
He said this was done last month and have been forwarded to Parliament for ratification.
Dr Prempeh said this in a speech read on his behalf at the 11th Congregation of the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT), Tarkwa.
“I am aware of concerns within the university community on the matter of academic user fees, which have not been increased for three years. I wish to state that, this has primarily been due to the new procedure for approval of these fees by Parliament” he explained.
On the issue of clearance for some universities to replace staff, he said the Ministry of Finance was working on its backlog with urgency and that would be fully resolved before the end of August 2019.
The Government appreciates and understands the need for some staff beyond the age of 65 to be retained, especially for the depth of their experience and ability to continue to enrich faculty, Dr Prempeh explained.
He said there were constitutional implications of maintaining such staff on government payroll and rather, they should be paid from Internally Generated Fund.
“Government accepts the position that there should have being a constitutional amendment to increase the age of retirement to bring such faculty members within the constitutional framework, and Parliament is in the process of considering same” he said.
The Minister pointed out that the government was aware that one of the implications of its Free Senior High School policy was an increase in the number of students seeking university admission come 2020/21 academic year when the first cohort of students under the programme complete their West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
He stated that under a $500 million infrastructure upgrade through the GETFund securitisation, universities like UMaT would receive favourable consideration.
This, he said, was primarily because UMaT had remained focused on its core mandate in respect of the nature of programmes it run and the government believes this was important in developing and nurturing talents in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.
He congratulated the Vice Chancellor, Professor Jerry Kuma for his passion in ensuring the UMaT continued to employ the best standards in the training of their students.
Mr Kwabena Okyere Darko Mensah, Western Regional Minister, promised to get in touch with the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources Mr Asomah Cheremeh to ensure that all legacy projects in UMaT were completed as soon as possible to improve academic work.
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Ghana government to train to 12,000 entrepreneurs in three years – Minister
Dr Ibrahim Mohammed Awal, Minister for Business Development, has said private sector remains the engine of growth which could move the country to its desired level.
In this regard, he said it is the goal of government to train and mentor 12,000 entrepreneurs nation-wide to enhance their businesses within three years adding that beneficiaries of the training would also have access to a GH¢100 million loan with 10 percent interest rate.
Dr Awal, who made this known during the fourth breakfast meeting for Chief Executive Officers in the Western Region, said so far a total of 300 entrepreneurs have been trained in the region.
The meeting, organized by the Ghana Employers Association (GEA), was to enable the CEOs interact and discuss pertinent issues that would enhance the growth and development of their businesses.
He said the government has put in place five driving force pillars, made up of modernization of agriculture, infrastructural development, human resource development, entreprenurship and industrialization to help develop the private sector.
He said under the modernization of agriculture ‘the Planting for Food and Jobs’ and the ‘One District one Factory Programmes’ would be implemented, adding that in the past two years about a million people have been engaged in the PFJP.
For infrastructure development, the Minister said, government has made available about $2 billion to address the short falls in the sector adding that the road sector would be the major beneficiary.
He said everything was being done to address the human resource shortfall in the country, hence the introduction of the free senior high school programme and the TVET programme.
Dr Awal said a lot of avenues are being created for the private sector to strive adding that the skills development centre and community mining programmes being executed in the Western Region are some of the interventions being put in place by the government.
He said government would continue to give the private sector the needed space to operate since they are the major employers in the country- “over 13,000 people are being employed by the private sector”.
Mr Kwabena Okyere Darko-Mensah, the Western Regional Minister, also underscored the important role the private sector play in the growth of the economy and urged them to continue to play their roles effectively by paying their taxes.
He said a free zone enclave will be sited in the Western Region and that five private community mines would be established in the Amenfi area.
He said the business world is changing to a technology driven one and tasked them to brace themselves up and adapt the current technological world.
Mr Alex Frimpong Chief Executive Officer of GEA, said the lack of affordable capital, ready market, technology and human resources were the major challenges facing many businesses in the country.
He called on the government to assist them by getting them affordable loans and ready market to enable them stay in business.
Many of the participants expressed concern about the numbers of taxes being introduced by the government, infrastructure shortfalls and the difficulties in assessing loans from the bank.
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Violent extremism on the rise in West Africa – Chambas
West Africa, last year, saw a “significant rise in violent attacks directly related to violent extremism,” the Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Dr Mohamed ibn Chambas, has said in his latest report to the UN Security Council in New York.
“The security situation remains volatile in the entire Sahel, where escalating violence and insecurity have sparked an unprecedented humanitarian crisis leaving a total of 5.1 million Burkinabe, Nigeriens and Malians in need,” he said in his briefing on the activities of UNOWAS.
Dr Chambas singled out Burkina Faso where in the past six months the security situation had deteriorated.
He said 226 security incidents contributed to a rise in the number of internally displaced people from 47,000 in December 2018 to 220,000 and more than 25,000 refugees in June this year.
“The north and east of the country remain the most affected by recurrent attacks of terrorist and armed groups as well as an increase in inter-communal violence with the involvement of seemingly uncontrolled self-defence groups,” Dr Chambas said
“Terrorist groups are furthermore directly targeting schools and forcing health centres to close.
“Today, a total of 2,024 schools and 37 health centres remain closed in Burkina Faso as a direct effect of this crisis.
“Amid this rapid escalation, Secretary-General [Antonio] Guterres has requested a significant scaling up of the United Nations’ response and put in place an Emergency Task Force on Burkina Faso,” he added.
The Task Force will meet immediate needs and tackle the structural causes of the insecurity.
Dr Chambas announced the launch of a $100 million Humanitarian Response Plan, which he said was already being revised because of rising costs.
The Lake Chad Basin, too, has seen an increase in violence from attacks launched by the Boko Haram offshoot, Islamic State West Africa Province, despite heightened counter-terrorism efforts, the report said.
He noted that the rise in violence in West Africa had been compounded by the growing links between terrorism, organised crime and inter-community clashes.
The situation was so serious that ECOWAS leaders decided at their June 29 meeting in Abuja to hold an extraordinary summit on terrorism in Ouagadougou on September 14.
“It aims at discussing a concerted security approach for West Africa and the Sahel and represents a unique window of opportunity to harmonise the fragmented security arrangements,” Dr Chambas told the Council.
On the political front, hr said: “Pre-electoral and post-electoral periods…continue to be characterised by tensions, antagonistic contests and disputes, including around non-consensual constitutional amendments.
“Addressing such potential sources of conflict remains a major priority ahead of the upcoming cycle of high-stake presidential elections in West Africa scheduled for next year in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Niger and Togo.
“Furthermore, tensions around electoral periods derail the necessary attention to the pressing need to address questions of development and inequality,” he added.
Dr Chambas stated that “the journey of democratic consolidation in this region has not been easy and cannot be taken for granted.
“Several countries in the region continue to struggle with human rights challenges.
“I am particularly concerned about the instrumentalization of the judiciary for political objectives in some cases as well as a predominant sentiment of impunity for violent crimes, undermining respect for the rule of law.
“In this sense, I commend the exemplary path chosen by The Gambia, where the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission as well as the National Human Rights Commission have embarked on their challenging tasks in a credible manner that has contributed to transitional justice and social cohesion.”
There is going to be a Strategic Review of UNOWAS, which Dr Chambas hoped would “contribute immensely to respond to our quest for adequate resources to enable us to sharpen our tools for preventing conflicts and sustaining peace”.
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