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11.05.2007 General News

SFO Board dissolved

By Gilbert Boyefio

SFO Board dissolved Gilbert Boyefio , 11/05/2007
The Statesman can report that the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Joe Ghartey, dissolved the Board of the Serious Fraud Office yesterday to pave way for the organisation to be restructured.

To this end, a committee (or commission), to be chaired by a Supreme Court Judge, is expected to be formed today with a mandate to consider granting the SFO a more extensive directive, incorporating organised crime. They will have three months to submit their findings.

In the meantime, The Statesman is reliably informed that someone from the AG's office has been appointed to head the SFO whilst it is being reconstituted. The Acting Executive Director, Theophilus Codjoe, will be moved to the Ministry of National Security.

Sources at the SFO have confirmed the moves, describing it as "a welcome news."

The 'new" office would be in charge of investigating other serious crimes such as child-trafficking, money laundering and other offences associated with organised crime.

The review committee will provide guidelines on cases to be covered by the revamped SFO. Also, several SFO branches are expected to be closed down, with resources being consolidated in a few centres, like Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi, as the body focuses more on really serious economic offences and organised crime.

The SFO was set up to strengthen public accountability in the use and management of financial and economic resources. It does this through regular reliability checks of management practices applied by public institutions, and investigates offences involving serious financial or economic losses to the state among others.

The SFO reports to the Attorney General and, therefore, depends on the Attorney General for directions. It can prosecute offences involving serious financial or economic loss to the state on the authority of the Attorney General.

The Board of the SFO is currently made up of the Inspector General of Police, the Minister of Interior, and representatives from the Attorney General's Department, Narcotic Control Board, and Presidential nominees.

However, since its establishment by Act 466 in 1993, the SFO has not had any substantive Executive Director, and this situation has led to a lot of power struggles.

The delay in appointing a substantive boss for the SFO had been criticised as not being helpful to the government's anti-corruption drive.

The power struggle at the SFO took a new turn when on October 9, 2006, Theophilus Codjoe was ordered by the Board to desist from holding himself as the Acting Executive Director.

In a letter signed by its last chairman, Justice (Rtd) N Y B Adade, the SFO Board of Directors stated: "Your functional position as an Acting Executive Director is hereby frozen, and you immediately cease to have the capacity to perform any function as Ag Executive Director".

Mr Codjoe refused to vacate his position as directed and continued to hold himself as the Executive Director of the SFO.

An attempt to restore sanity at the SFO fizzled out when Francis Nii Annan Sowah, who was appointed as the new SFO boss by the President in consultation with the Public Service Commission, could not be sworn into office.

Now, Mr Cudjoe will be moved to the National Security Ministry.

The AG will on Monday embark on a walking tour of the SFO, CHRAJ and the Supreme Court, with Ambassadors from the European Union.

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