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ALL CHANGE AT EC: HEADS ROLL AS CHIEF JUSTICE DELIVERS VERDICT ON PETITIONS

General News

The chair of the Electoral Commission, Charlotte Osei, and her two deputies ‒ Amadu Sulley and Georgina Opoku Amankwah ‒ have been removed from office on the recommendation of the Chief Justice, Sophia Akuffo.

The chair of the Electoral Commission, Charlotte Osei, and her two deputies ‒ Amadu Sulley and Georgina Opoku Amankwah ‒ have been removed from office on the recommendation of the Chief Justice, Sophia Akuffo.

This announcement was made by the Office of the President last night, Thursday, 29 June.

The dismissals of all three commissioners are to take immediate effect.

The removal of the three most senior EC staff follows a six-month-long investigation into allegations and counter-allegations of improprieties by all three parties. A statement from the Ministry of Information said a five-member committee set up by the Chief Justice had made the decision “on the basis of stated misbehaviour and incompetence” by the commissioners.

Breakdown

The removal of the seniormost EC staff follows a determination by the Chief Justice-led committee on allegations of improprieties by the three parties ranging from abuse of office, corruption and cronyism to various breaches of the Procurement and Financial Administration Acts, conflict of interest and actions that brought the EC into disrepute.

The findings of the committee’s investigation, conducted in camera, are yet to be released but will be pored over in coming weeks.

Once the committee members forwarded their conclusion to the Chief Justice, she was obliged to pass these on to the President. The Presidency said the announcement was made in accordance with constitutional provisions, set out in of Article 146 (9), which require the President to act in accordance with the investigative committee’s recommendations.

The decision on the complaints is sure to presage far-reaching change at the Commission, and possible painful reform.

In November 2015, using similar constitutional provisions, the then President, John Dramani Mahama, removed the head of the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice, Lauretta Lamptey, following allegations of misconduct.

Prima facie case

As reported in the Daily Statesman front-page story of June 27, the problems at the Electoral Commission began with a breakdown of relationships between Mrs Osei and her two deputies. The dispute between commissioners threatened to bring the EC’s work to a halt.

The initial petitions seeking removal of the EC chair were presented to the Office of the President in July and August last year. In line with his constitutional duty and in accordance with Article 146 (3), President Akufo-Addo was obliged to forward them to the Office of the Chief Justice for assessment, together with a subsequent complaint against the two deputy chairs.

Ms Akuffo decided that they offered sufficient grounds to bring a prima facie case against all three commissioners in December.

The petitioners against Mrs Osei were particularly concerned about incompetence and violations of Sections 14 and 15 of the Public Procurement Act 2003 (Act 663) and Public Procurement (Amendment) Act 2016 (Act 914). They claimed she had unilaterally appointed a private law firm and the Israeli-owned firm STL to carry out work on behalf of the EC without recourse to the commission or the public procurement laws.

The two other commissioners also faced accusations including misuse of funds belonging to the EC, abuse of office and corruption. Mrs Osei, who was alleged to have instigated the petition against her deputies, accused the two commissioners of scheming to frustrate her stay in office.

Money matters

The EC boss publicly accused Ms Opoku Amankwah, the commissioner in charge of corporate services, of signing contracts worth over US$40 million without her knowledge and authorisation between May and September 2015.

She also alleged that Mr Sulley, the commissioner responsible for operations, transferred votes illegally in the run-up to the 2016 elections and took money from certain political parties.

Both the New Patriotic Party and the main opposition National Democratic Congress have repeatedly called for a determination of the case.

The Economic and Organised Crimes Office had launched separate investigations into the conduct of Mr Sulley, Ms Opoku Amankwah and two other senior members of EC management after nearly GHC500,000 reportedly went missing from the Commission’s accounts.