Parl divided over establishment of WPA

There was  a divided opinion among members of Parliamentary  Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs over the establishment of the proposed Witness Protection Agency (WPA) to administer witness protection programme in the country.

This was contained in the Committee’s report, presented on the floor of the house by the Chairman of Committee, Mr Ben Abdalla Banda.

He told members of the Committee of the Whole that some members of the Committee were of the  view that a new department must be  created under the Office of the Attorney General to administer the programme instead of creating a new organ.

Mr Speaker,  “their reason was that the creation of a new institution would impose a additional burden on the public purse” ,he said.

Those who were for the establishment of the proposed WPA explained that the Office of the Attorney General was  already burdened and should not further be constrained. He noted.

The chairman of the committee revealed that the passage of the Bill would fulfil one of the country’s key obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) of which Ghana is a party.

“Mr Speaker, per Article 32 of the UNCAC, Ghana is required to take appropriate measures to afford full protection for  witnesses, experts and victims who may face possible threat of intimidation or physical harm”, he stressed.

Witnesses, experts and other persons who assist in criminal investigations and their family members are to get state protection with the passage of the Witness Protection Bill, 2017 which is currently before Parliament.

There is currently no law in Ghana that guarantees the safety and protection of witnesses , who are said to be an important factor in the fight against corruption, crime and graft in the Ghanaian society.

Testimonies of witnesses in criminal investigations are  often critical to the work of intelligence agencies, the police and other agencies tasked with the maintenance of law and order, and safeguarding the security and safety of the nation.

The evidence of witnesses is commonly required to prevent or prosecute crimes such as human trafficking, illicit arms dealing and money laundering, etc.

Though there is a Whistleblower Act, 2006 (Act 720), it does not address matters relating to witness protection in the broader context.

While a witness protection law provides for the protection of witnesses and other persons who cooperate with the law enforcement agencies in the investigation and prosecution of criminal offences, the Whistle blower law, among other  deals with mechanisms by which people may expose corrupt practices in the public services.

Mr Banda said “the purpose of the Bill is therefore to establish a WPA to administer a witness protection programme”.

 

Story: Franklin ASARE-DONKOH

Writer’s email: franklin.asare-donkor@today.com

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