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Protecting sensitive case files in Ghana

Ghana Integrity Initiative - TI Ghana

Last year, unknown perpetrators committed a series of break-ins into the office of the Attorney General of Ghana in which five laptops, a printer and a television were stolen. The burglaries raised eyebrows as they were reportedly aimed at the office of the Director of Public Prosecution’s (DPP) specifically — an office whose primary duties include the prosecution of drug-related offences.

Recent findings by the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), Transparency International’s local chapter, offer a possible explanation for the break-ins: the Narcotics Unit of the Ghana Police Service, the DPP and the courts are all running independent electronic case management systems. Lacking a centrally integrated system, data from stolen devices is irretrievably lost, which makes targeting offices of the DPP or the police a sure means of compromising criminal cases. Stolen case files can even lead to a halt of the prosecution and adjudication of the case altogether.

Informants’ lives are on the line

Weak security cover at an office with responsibilities like those of the DPP heavily compromises law enforcement work. It risks blowing the cover of informants and whistleblowers who are supporting drug-related investigations and puts their safety on the line. If information about them gets into the wrong hands, they can be recklessly targeted and even killed.

Break-ins like these are not unique to Ghana, but the lack of a proper security system for sensitive information about ongoing cases massively increases the chance of such crimes. Based on the study GII conducted using the JustLEAD tool, it recommended the implementation of an Integrated Electronic Case Management System (IECMS) for law enforcement institutions.

GII staff meeting with representatives from Ghana Law Enforcement Agencies

How an Integrated Electronic Case Management System can help

Establishing such a system along with the investigation, prosecution, and adjudication of cases will allow for increased accountability and tracking of cases from beginning to end, in consistency with international guidelines. It will also reduce the motivation to burgle law enforcement offices, as data secured in the integrated system will be retrievable from a protected central server.

The Ghana Police Service and the Courts have already started piloting an IECMS as recommended by the JustLEAD study. While it is by far not the only challenge for law enforcement in Ghana, preventing the leaking of sensitive information would mean a huge step towards the country’s objective of controlling drug trafficking. GII, together with its partners at UNODC and Interpol, is continuously working with law enforcement organizations to help them reach this objective and step up the fight against organized crime and corruption.

This blog post is based on the work done via the Justice and Law Enforcement Accountability Dashboard (JustLead), developed under the CRIMJUST project that is being implemented by Transparency International chapters in 9 countries. Funding from the European Union Cocaine Route Programme under the CRIMJUST project supports tool implementation in Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ghana and Panama. Funding from Global Affairs Canada under the IMPACT project supports tool implementation in Honduras, Guatemala, Nigeria, Peru and Venezuela.

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