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02.11.2007 General News

After PAC exposures - 61 to be prosecuted

After PAC exposures - 61 to be prosecuted

The Office of the Attorney-General is collaborating with the security agencies to prosecute 61 public officials who have allegedly embezzled billions of state funds.

The individuals, whose names surfaced at the recent sittings of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), would be prosecuted at the special financial tribunals which are expected to be established soon.

In an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra Thursday, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr Joe Ghartey, explained that the officials who committed the offences between 2004 and 2005 were currently standing trial at the various courts in the country.

However, he stated that his outfit had decided to collaborate with the police and officials of the Bureau of National Investigation (BNI) to prosecute the cases, which were initially being prosecuted by the police.

Mr Ghartey further stated that the Financial Administration Act had been amended so the tribunals would become a division of the High Court.

Under the new system, the tribunals would use panel assessors who have specialised in nonlegal areas instead of panel members to assist judges.

He said the amendment bill would be put before Parliament next week to pave the way for the smooth kick-off of the financial tribunals.

A memorandum on the Financial Administration (Amendment) Bill states that "the purpose of this Bill is to amend the Financial Administration Act, 2003 (Act 654) to provide for a Financial Administration Court in replacement of the Financial Administration Tribunal established in Part VIII of Act 654)."

According to the memorandum, the Bill had become necessary because Article 126 of the 1992 Constitution empowers Parliament only to establish lower courts or tribunals.

"Article 139 (3) of the Constitution empowers the Chief Justice to establish such divisions of the High Court as she determines".

"Accordingly, this Bill replaces the tribunal with a High Court specially established to deal with matters under the Financial Administration Act (Act 654)," the memorandum stated. .

The memorandum further stated that Section 68 of Act 654 stipulated that the tribunals had the powers of a High Court but the amendment as it stood now stated that the tribunal should rather be established as a division of the High Court.

"The consequential effects of the changes are dealt with in the clauses of the Bill and Section 68 of the Act 654 is deleted as it will be redundant once the Financial Administration Court is established," the memorandum concluded.