The Alliance for Accountable Governance(AFAG) has noted with great discomfort the content of a petition submitted to the President levelling serious allegations of misbehaviour, incompetence, cronyism and corruption against the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission(EC), Mrs Charlotte Osei.
We have also noted the response of the Chairperson of the EC, especially the allegations of corruption, diversion of public funds into private accounts, financial malfeasance and the like.
The raging public controversy started when the EC Chairperson caused the Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO) to investigate some officials of the Electoral Commission over the loss of GHC 480,000 Cedis from the Commission’s Endowment Fund. As part of the investigations, the officials including the Commission’s Deputy Chairperson in-charge of Finance and Administration, Georgina Opoku Amankwah were directed to proceed on leave.
PETITION AGAINST CHARLOTTE OSEI
Few days after the EOCO investigations were made public, Maxwell Opoku-Agyemang, acting as the lawyer for some unnamed workers of the Electoral Commission submitted a petition to the President of the Republic of Ghana under Article 146 of the 1992 Constitution for the removal of Mrs Charlotte Osei as Chairperson for the Electoral Commission. In the 29-point petition, it was alleged that Mrs Osei single-handedly renegotiated the contract with the vendor without the involvement of the members of the Commission, not even the deputies. She then awarded the contract to the tune of $21,999,592 without going through tender contrary to the Public Procurement Act. The Chairperson then re-awarded these contracts without approval from the Commission. It was further alleged that Mrs. Osei “compromised the independence and neutrality of the Commission by arranging for 2015 V8 Land Cruiser with registration WR 2291-15 from the office of the President for use as an official vehicle without going through the procurement process or recourse to the Commission.” The aggrieved workers also alleged that Mrs Osei “unilaterally awarded a contract to the tune of GHS 3.9 million for demarcation and partitioning of the said office complex without recourse to the Commission” and “engaged in cronyism” by “awarding another contract to the tune of $14,310,961 (United State Dollars) to her cronies for the construction of Pre-Fabricated District offices without recourse to the Commission.”
CHARLOTTE OSEI FIRES BACK
A few days ago, the Chairperson of the EC put out in the media a 15-page response to the allegations contained in the petition. In her response, she also levelled serious allegations bothering on criminality against her two deputies. In her response 6, she alleged that “the two Deputy Chairpersons signed two contracts with STL on 6 May 2015 for $22.3 (BVR) and $16.4m (BVD) respectively (copies attached and marked “CO6A). Letters were written to PPA on 15 May 2015 (copies attached and marked CO6B) seeking permission for sole sourcing AFTER the contracts had been signed. The contracts contained no price break down and were signed against the 2016 budget of the Commission which was unknown at the time and not even presented to Parliament for approval. The procurement department of the Commission had no knowledge of the execution of the contracts (Please see CO6C attached). The Chairperson informed the Deputy Chairpersons of the many breaches of law in connection with these contracts. The Deputy Chair Ops confirmed the illegalities in an email and also confessed his lack of knowledge of procurement processes (please see CO6D attached). The Chairperson abrogated the contracts in August 2015 and requested the Finance department to renegotiate with STL and rectify the contract award process. Upon receipt of the consent of the PPA to sole sourcing, she engaged consultants to advise the Commission on the real needs of the Commission regarding the BVR contract and review the proposals submitted by STL. The Consultants confirmed that the Commission should spend a maximum of $7.2m (attached as CO6E). The Chairperson signed a new contract with STL for the BVR services for the 2016 elections for $3.9m (attached as CO6F)
Interestingly, STL has not complained about the abrogation of the contracts. It is amazing that persons, who schemed to cause loss to the state, flout procurement laws with impunity, can then accuse another of acting illegally. When the first contracts were signed, no one in the Commission was involved in the negotiations. Quite surprisingly, it is now alleged that their involvement would have resulted in better pricing for the Commission.” She further alleged that “the Deputy Chairperson Operations collected funds above GHS6m (Six million Ghana Cedis) in cash from some political parties for the organization of party primaries without recourse to the structures of the Commission and without the involvement of the finance department of the Commission. Political party primaries were treated as a private commercial project by the Deputy Chairperson Ops, with funds paid directly into the personal accounts of key staff for functions to be performed for party primaries.”
AMADU SULLEY DENIES
A Deputy Commissioner in charge of Operations at the Electoral Commission, Amadu Sulley, has denied the allegations against him. He told the media “I want to assure you that it’s not true. I have all the documents, and I am going for legal advice”.
The Alliance for Accountable Governance (AFAG) is troubled by the accusations and counter accusations bedevilling the Electoral Commission. The Electoral Commission is a sacred democratic institution. The Electoral Commission of Ghana has so far played a critical role in our democratic journey since the beginning of the Fourth Republic. It is an institution which thrives on public integrity. It is a body that requires public confidence, support and credibility in the discharge of its work. The raging controversy has generated massive public outcry and interest.
Despite the fact that the 1992 Constitution per Article 46 grants independence to the Electoral Commission, the same Constitution grants the President the power under Article 278 to set up a Commission of Enquiry in any public interest matter.
We recognise that the petition presented by the unnamed workers has started a removal process under Article 146. However, we believe that the nature of the allegations and counter allegations cannot end with the removal or otherwise of the Electoral Commission Chairperson.
As a sacred democratic institution, AFAG is by this press conference calling on the President to set up a Commission of Enquiry into the entire affairs of the Electoral Commission. According to the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Asare vs. Attorney General, the good Justices ruled that the President had powers to commission an enquiry to ascertain the truth or otherwise on all issues that bother on the public interest. There is no doubt that this raging controversy at the Electoral Commission has generated huge public interest which requires a Presidential Commission of Enquiry. We are also calling for full state media coverage of the proceedings of the proposed Commission of Enquiry.
It is our belief that with the Commission of Enquiry, the truth surrounding the allegations and counter allegations will be unearthed. This will restore credibility and public confidence in the Electoral Commission.
Finally, we will caution government to diligently draft the terms of reference and the sort of immunities to grant to witnesses, noting further that justice delayed is justice denied. Mr President, the people of Ghana, want you to act now.
God bless Ghana