A former Dean of the GIMPA Law School, Mr Ernest Kofi Abotsi, has advocated for changes in the burden of proof in the prosecution of corrupt offences.
In his view, accused persons must be presumed guilty until they prove their innocence.
He said the current practice in which persons accused of corrupt practices were presumed innocent, requiring the state to prove otherwise, undermined the effective prosecution of corrupt cases because the state might not be able to gather enough information against the accused.
Mr Abotsi was contributing to a panel discussion on ways the country could fight corruption at a forum organised by the Private Sector Led Anti-Corruption Group (PSACG) in Accra last Tuesday.
The PSACG is a project initiated by the UK-Ghana Chamber of Commerce (UKGCC) and funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID’s) strengthening Action Against Corruption (STAAC) programme.
PSACG’s key mission is to aid engagement by the private sector with the government of Ghana through the Office of the Vice President, to tackle corruption because it negatively affects the cost of doing business and investment flows into Ghana.
According to Mr Abotsi the current practice was a contributory factor to the many instances of the state having to discontinue cases on grounds of inadequate evidence against the accused.
He argued that the accused person “is the one who has the repository of information to prove otherwise,” and therefore, should be required to do so to spare the state the toil of gathering information “which may be concealed by the alleged perpetrators.”
“The one who is corrupt has all the information. The one who is alleging the corruption may have little information against the accused.
The Attorney General now has to put things together through the various state agencies to be able to make a case against the accused.
“For a country where we do not have enough lawyers and attorney general departments which are not even well resourced, it is easy for the accused to invest in the case and win even when they may be guilty,” he stated.
Other members of the panel were the Executive Director of the Ghana Integrity Initiative, Mrs Linda Ofori-Kwafo and the Technical Advisor to the Commissioner General of the Ghana Revenue Authority, Mr Henry Yentumi.
The rest are the Managing Partner of Addison Bright Sloane, a consultancy firm, Ms Victoria Bright and the Executive Director of Peverett Maxwell, a consultancy firm, Ms Leticia Adu-Ampoma.
In the discussion, all the panellists mentioned corruption as a major impediment to the growth of the private sector by discouraging a free and fair competition on the market and undermining investor confidence.
Mrs Ofori-Kwafo, for instance, expressed dissatisfaction at what she described as the over centredness of corruption on the public sector although “many cases of corruption in the public sector had private sector involvements.”
Ms Adu-Ampoma agreed with Mrs Ofori-Kwafo that there were gaps in the country’s anti-corruption laws but called for stringent enforcement of the current laws because “they are considerably enough to handle the problem.”
For his part, Mr Yentumi called on the private sector to assist the public sector to develop systems that would make it easier for the public to access services in public institutions with ease.
According to him, the delays in seeking services in public institutions bred corruption and that, he added, could be resolved by the private sector because “they have the expertise in developing systems that can help shorten the processes involved.”