21
Sat, Jul
6 New Articles

OSEI RISKS FURTHER CHARGES AFTER SACKING OF EC OFFICIALS

General News

Repercussions from the dismissal of the Electoral Commissioner, Charlotte Osei, and her two deputies, Amadu Sulley and Georgina Opoku Amankwah, dominated the news over the weekend.

Repercussions from the dismissal of the Electoral Commissioner, Charlotte Osei, and her two deputies, Amadu Sulley and Georgina Opoku Amankwah, dominated the news over the weekend.

Following the removal of all three top EC officials on Thursday, June 28, the National Democratic Congress held a press conference to announce a demonstration on Friday morning in central Accra. It said the march would have the support of other opposition groups. However, the demonstration was called off after the death of former Vice-President Paa Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur.

The NDC said the decision to remove the Electoral Commissioner had been taken for purely partisan reasons which favour the New Patriotic Party, and is pressuring the government into changing tack. It accuses the NPP of creating a void at the heart of the EC.

But Herbert Krapa, the government’s spokesman on governance and legal affairs, said: “The President is of course mindful of the need to exercise his mandate quickly, especially given the pending referenda on the creation of new regions. He is fully aware that it would not be in the country’s interest for there to be a long vacuum at the head of the Electoral Commission.

“In the next couple of days, the process of selection of candidates for the Commissioners’ roles will begin. Beyond the main requirement ‒ that he seek the advice of the Council of State ‒ the President will consult widely. He will take views from a range of bodies whose involvement in the process will be vital. Then he will come to an informed decision about the appointments.”

‘Final’ decision

The NDC says it will push for a reversal of the sackings and accuses the Akufo-Addo-led government of moving to destroy the only institution of state still intact out of “many” that the party says it built during eight years in office. Its national youth organiser, Sidi Abubakar, told Rainbow Radio on Friday that the party has vowed to make the President rescind the decision and will “resist with our blood”.

But one commentator, John Ndebugre, a student at the Ghana School of Law, said the former commissioner’s removal was “a travesty of justice” and urged her to fight to overturn the panel’s recommendations. “Mrs Charlotte Osei must apply for judicial review in the nature certiorari to quash this unreasonable decision,” Ndebugre said.

Legal sources say such moves stand little chance of success. Speaking on June 29, a high-ranking expert who supports the government told the Daily Statesman there were no grounds for appeal. He described the commissioners’ removal as “irreversible”, “final” and “in keeping with the constitution of Ghana”. The petitions against all three were “about documented facts, not hearsay”, he noted.

Friends and sympathisers of Charlotte Osei are mounting a rearguard defence. On Joy FM’s flagship Newsfile programme on June 30, Kweku Baako, editor of the Crusading Guide, described the action to remove the EC chair as disproportionately “harsh”, and the findings against her as the end result of “a conspiracy” on the part of EC board members who disliked her.

Rockson Dafeamekpor, the NDC MP for South Dayi, was even more damning. “The removal of the EC chair fed into a certain agenda,” he thundered – that agenda being to rig the 2020 election in the NPP’s favour.

Opposition members are fearful because, they argue, President Akufo-Addo has been given a free hand to mould the Electoral Commission with the departure not only of the three top members of management but also one member of the board, Paulina Dadzawa, who recently retired.

And the former Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection Nana Oye Lithur launched the Twitter thread #iStandWithCharlotte. (To which one of the early responses was: “Where are you standing? Atobiase or Atebubu?”)

Breaches

However, Eric Oduro Osae, a governance expert and lawyer, welcomed the opportunities for electoral reform brought by events since Thursday. He proposed making appointments to the EC more transparent by advertising positions and involving the Public Services Commission in recruiting candidates. Osae told Newsfile: “We are at a point where [President Akufo-Addo] has to act fast, think fast and overhaul the system… The appointment procedure should be competitive and they should open it up.”

Mrs Osei herself hinted that she would fight the government for dismissing her. But President Akufo-Addo’s spokesman, Eugene Arhin, told reporters on 29 June that Mrs Osei’s woes were just beginning and that she faces the possibility of court action.

The Chief Justice-appointed panel steered clear of political considerations in Mrs Osei’s case. All six grounds on which it found reason to recommend her dismissal relate to breaches of the Public Procurement Acts 2003 and 2016. They include:

  • a contract with Super Tech Ltd worth just under $22 million, negotiated unilaterally by Mrs Osei without going through tender, after terminating an earlier contract with the same company without recourse to the EC
  • persistent approval of payments of $76,000 to an IT company, Dreamoval Ltd
  • unilateral award of a contract worth roughly $25,000 to Quazar Ltd of South Africa to redesign the EC’s logo
  • unilateral award of a contract for demarcation and petitioning of a new office complex at a point when the EC’s board had requested no such action, nor even sought to acquire a new office space. This contract was worth GHC3.9 million

Illegal transfers

On June 30 the Minister for Information, Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, confirmed that the investigative committee’s findings had been forwarded to the Attorney General’s Department for review. A decision will be taken in due course whether to press charges against the commissioners.

The EC boss herself had accused Ms Opoku Amankwah, the commissioner in charge of corporate services, of signing contracts worth over US$40 million without her authorisation over a period of four months in 2015. She also alleged that Mr Sulley, responsible for operations, transferred votes illegally in the run-up to the 2016 elections and took money from certain political parties.

The Alliance for Accountable Governance (AFAG) called for swift prosecution of all three officials.

Welcoming Mrs Osei’s removal, Hassan Ayariga, leader of the All Peoples Congress, referred to her as “biased” and “unfair” and said that, despite NDC claims to the contrary, his party had no intention of joining a demonstration to call for her reinstatement. The Progressive People’s Party described the removal of the Electoral Commissioner as “good riddance” and said prosecution of her and both former deputy commissioners was in order.

* Editor's Note: This article was amended at 5.55pm on 2 July to correct a reference to the sacking of Mrs Osei as "a travesty of justice". The comment was made not by John Ndebugri the acclaimed lawyer and former leading figure in the PNC, but by a John Ndebugre, a student at the Ghana School of Law.