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30.05.2005 Press Review

EDITORIAL: The SFO, CHRAJ AndTransparency

By Chronicle

Last Wednesday, an Assistant Director of Investigations at the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), was reported to have ruled out the outfit investigating the controversy surrounding the acquisition of a hotel by the President's son and others, because as far as they were concerned, nobody has suggested there is any financial loss to the state.

The Assistant Director, Mr. A. Tetteh Mensah, was quoted to have said: 'From preliminary readings from all these things and the studies we are making currently, nobody has been able to lay down, point-blank, that the President's son has taken money from the state and, therefore, attract the investigative attention of the SFO. All that they are saying is that he has gone for a loan from the Prudential Bank. If that is the case, then it is no loss to the state and so in that case, the SFO does not come in.”

The above submission by the SFO is not just curious but very disappointing! In the first place, neither has members of the public, nor the President's son, through his released statement, indicated the son had gone for a loan from the Prudential Bank.

The son's own statement indicates there is a consortium of banks, led by the Prudential Bank. Secondly, what has been in the public domain suggests that the National Investment Bank (NIB), which is largely state-owned, is a member of the consortium and has coughed up some hard cash.

Thirdly, the public is demanding to know who the other members of the consortium are.

The SFO to conclude even at this stage that there is no financial loss to the state, is not being forthright to the facts as they exist now, and that calls for concern.

At least, if they had carried out any preliminary investigations into the matter, they would not have got it so wrong.

The SFO has for a long time been viewed by many, as a body used to pursue narrow objectives, by deploying it to hound political opponents, and at the same time, to cover up the misdeeds of persons close to the corridors of power. The SFO's officials must not reinforce that perception, through such hasty conclusions.

The Acting Commissioner of the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), was also on radio, and lamented how the lack of both logistics and human resources is hampering their work.

Whereas both the SFO and CHRAJ pointed out that they have been, on their own initiative and upon tip-offs, conducting some investigations, they also suggest putting the investigations into the public domain was not good.

The Chronicle believes that transparency is key to unraveling cases of corruption, therefore even if not the proceedings of such investigations, the public must be informed about the issues involved, so that it may volunteer information to assist with investigations.

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