Thank you, Mr Speaker for
Nandom): Mr Speaker, I also rise to support the motion.
Mr Speaker, Ghana is party to the United Nations Anti-Corruption Treaty and Africa Anti-Corruption Treaty. Mr. Speaker, this Bill on mutual legal assistance is a further step along the road to make sure that we have the adequate legal framework within the country to make good our commitment to fighting corruption. Over the years, a number of pieces of legislations have been put in place and in recent times, especially, in the direction of anti-corruption, we had the Procurement Act, we have had the Whistle Blowers Act, we have the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2008, Act 749, we have the Information Bill in the pipeline.
But recognizing that the world is a global village, all what we are doing would come to nothing if we do not have international co-operation in tracking down the activities of criminals and corrupt entities and personalities. For what we know, most of the time there is a network that is able to transfer money out of the country and we know that ultimately, beyond the mutual legal assistance, we would finally have to get to assets recovery. That is when it would become unattractive for people to indulge in the corrupt activities. But for now, we are at this level of trying to work to ensure that international crime is effectively fought by an international effort and that the barriers between states are well taken care of to make sure that we facilitate this effort on our part to fight crime.
We have realized that we have a number of institutions and I see that the Bill is making proposals in respect of the Serious Fraud Office and also the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice. We know that these are the institutions which have a role to play when it comes
to investigating corrupt practices. And when we pass this law, it is going to make it easier for such institutions to collaborate or get information from similar or like institutions in other countries to be able to assist in their investigation of corrupt practices.
Mr Speaker, as we all know, when corruption has been perpetuated, the effect is to make the country unattractive to investment. And we know one of the ways forward, the best way forward is not just aid or grants, we need foreign direct investment and we also need local investment. Both types of investment would not lead to any positive results or impact the lives of our people if corrupt practices are not checked, especially when we allow international cartels to siphon monies out and in the end, we would have our country being an unattractive destination.
So it is in that regard, that I think that this Mutual Legal Assistance Bill is going to be useful . But that is just a framework, legal framework. How are we going to get it effective? We can have the laws but if we do not work to implement the laws, to make them effective, we are going to have a problem. Under the Anti-Money Laundering Act for instance, we have the Financial Intelligence Centre which in the ECOWAS Sub Region has network with other ECOWAS countries and states to try to work to make sure that we effectively check that money is not laundered, moved from one country to another with impunity.
But the administering of justice and the Office of the Attorney-General is the leading Ministry as far as this is concerned. But when it comes to the Financial Intelligence Centre, you have other sectors coming in - Bank of Ghana and other financial institutions. We need to work, first, on the capacity of the lead Ministry to be able to effectively
monitor or be effective in leading in the implementation of the various laws that we have put in place.
And then we need some capacity building, first, for those who are there, and secondly, we need to work to make the conditions of service in that Ministry attractive enough to get the best brains to be there because the criminals engage the best brains to be able to beat state institutions. And so, if we are going to let the Ministry of Justice to become a “Siberia” where people who have the capacity would not like to stay for long - it is increasingly becoming a transit point. I am sure if you get there now and you look beyond the Minister and his Deputy, you might have just a few experienced hands who are there. Otherwise, most of the time you have people coming for National Service and spend one or two years there whiles looking afield for better pastures and when they locate that, they move away.
And so this Ministry, or the Office of the Attorney-General is not going to be effective unless we improve the conditions and also make sure that it is not easy to influence them Because whether we like it or not, organised crime also tries to influence the officers or institutions who want to check them and people are going to be more prone to accepting small tips here and there -- I do not want to use the “B” word, but we need to ensure that we equip the Office of the Attorney-General to effectively do that.
We also need to equip and enhance the capacity of the Serious Fraud Office and also the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice. And above all, we need finally to also build the capacity of the Judiciary because at the end of it all, the Judiciary has a role to play and we
might need the special knowledge, special training for some of the judges to enable them act effectively in their various roles.
Mr Speaker, with these few words I want to say that I support the motion and that this Mutual Legal Assistance Bill -- that we all worked hard to make sure that it becomes law.
Mr Speaker, finally, the point I want to make is this. Sometimes, in our political cycles, we seem to abandon the issues and want to make scapegoats of each other. And I want to say that as far as organised crime is concerned, it is only a united political leadership that can fight it.
And it is a collective responsibility and from both sides of the House whether anybody is part of the Executive, the Legislature or the Judiciary and indeed every citizen of Ghana We need a concerted effort to be able to fight organised crime. If we are not totally committed to that and we want to continue to point fingers when we know that organised crime is beyond our individual capacities to be able to check.
Mr Speaker, I am making this particular
comment in regard to narcotics. I remember when I was privileged to serve at the Ministry of Justice and went to Vienna for a meeting on narcotics. You would clearly get to realise there that the information that was available to us was that West Africa is just a corridor.
We neither produce nor are we the major consumers. It is produced in Latin America where you have several unguarded airfields where they can fly out onto ships. And we need all the efforts, we need international support to be able to fight that menace. And they just use us, especially Ghana which is attractive to them because it is stable and we respect
humanrights. Most of the other places, if you go through a war-torn country, they might just arrest you, take the stuff and kill you.
But in Ghana because of the respect for the rule of law, they are more emboldened to want to pass through this place sometimes. And sometimes it is unfortunate when we see that rather than look at this as a national matter, in fact, we have Nigeria and other countries being worse when it comes to drugs, we turn to want to play the blame game. I think that we must eschew that attitude.
We must jettison that attitude and begin to work together as a country and that one of the ways is to make sure that we pass this Bill and go forward to get the legal arrangement, to get assets recovery and together we will work to fight international crime. It is only then that we can have Ghana to continue to be the leader in West Africa and be the first point of call for foreign investment. And also, it is only then that we can create room for our own local businessmen to be able to make a contribution and make Ghana the country that we all want it to be.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.