Charlotte Osei – EC Chairperson
The infighting that has rocked the Electoral Commission (EC) is getting nastier by the day with revelations that some of the commissioners are neck deep in corrupt practices, including inflating contract sums.
Since some unnamed staff of the commission petitioned the president to initiate impeachment proceedings against the Chairperson, Charlotte Osei, serious allegations of abuse of office and corruption continue to be traded among the top hierarchy of the commission unabated.
Mrs Charlotte Osei, who was seeking the faces behind the petition, officially responded to the allegations in the petition over the weekend but her response, in the view of many, has revealed what appears to be a commission in disarray, creating an impression of a chaotic situation.
Per the tone of the chairperson’s response, there seems to be a compelling case that the commission is becoming dysfunctional and might be incapable of continuing with its core mandate since its boss appears to be at loggerheads with her two deputies and by extension, the other commissioners as well.
Many observers believe that the petitioner’s ‘irreversible disunity’ claim among members of the commission is the centerpiece of the whole scandal.
Mrs Osei confirmed clearly in her response that all is not well with the top hierarchy of the elections organizing body when she said that it was rather her subordinates who were showing gross insubordination.
“Mrs. Osei is on speaking terms with everyone at the Commission. The Deputy Chairpersons have chosen to be grossly insubordinate and rude and there is ample documented evidence to support this,” her lawyers said in her response to the damning allegations against her.
“Deputies take managerial decisions and implement same without the knowledge of the Chairperson; threaten staff that have direct dealings with the Chairperson; take their leave without the approval of the Chairperson and implement major administrative and operational decisions without the knowledge of the Chairperson,” she exploded.
The EC boss admitted, “There is only a breakdown of the structures for maladministration and illegal financial dealings and not the administrative structures of the Commission as claimed by the fictitious petitioners.”
“The Chairperson will deal directly with directors when a deputy spends half of the working week outside of Accra, particularly in a busy election year when decisions have to be taken quickly. The Chairperson has attempted to put in place structures at the Commission to ensure that the Commission is managed in an efficient manner. The Commission has no disciplinary committee or effective disciplinary processes, no audit review committee or processes, no structured management meetings, and no clear financial and administrative procedures and manuals. This is unpardonable,” according to Mrs Osei.
On her alleged travels without informing her deputies, she said, “The Chairperson does not report to the two deputies. These are deputies who constantly show insubordination, do not come to work or come to work when they feel like, go on leave and travel without the knowledge and approval of the Chairperson. They clearly do not respect their office or their role within the organisation. Corporate governance procedures are clearly disregarded in their operational behaviour.”
Tit For Tat
Mrs Osei insisted that as a ground for impeachment, it would also be proper for the Deputy Chairpersons to be impeached for all the times they have taken unauthorized leaves and travelled within and outside the jurisdiction, without her approval.
According to the EC Boss, she never used a vehicle with registration number WR 2291-15 as claimed by the petitioners, as coming from the presidency, but admitted she received a vehicle from the executive arm of government.
“Following her appointment as Chairperson, the Office of the Chief of Staff allocated Mrs. Osei a vehicle. This is certainly not a new practice in Ghana’s public service. Indeed, the office of the Chief of Staff provided and continues to provide vehicles for many government institutions and appointees.”
On the issue of external solicitors, the Chairperson said that “Sory@ Law was retained on the basis of a decision of the Commission taken at a Commission meeting of September 2015. If it is true that the Chairperson unilaterally retained Sory@Law, members of the Commission, including the two Deputy Chairpersons, would clearly have to explain the basis for meetings held between the entire Commission and Lawyer T. Sory, and other meetings between management and executive management staff, and staff of Sory@Law to discuss pending cases.”
She accused the Deputy Chairperson F/A of signing contracts worth over GH¢40 million without the knowledge and authorization of the Chairperson between July and September 2015.
“It is worth pointing out that while the Chairperson is persistently accused of arrogance and taking unilateral decisions, there is ample evidence of extreme arrogance, ineptitude and blatant breaches of the law by the Deputy Chairpersons. The Deputy Chairperson F/A has signed contracts worth over GH¢40 million without knowledge and authorization of the Chairperson between July and September 2015,” she said.
“Payments were also made on these contracts in excess of her approval limits and again, without the knowledge and authorization of the Chairperson,” the EC boss claimed, adding, “This is illegal, criminal and a breach of the policies of the Commission and the laws of Ghana.”
She indicated that the “supporting documents would be submitted to the relevant investigative agencies for their further action.”
According to Mrs Osei, it could not be true that she accepted a new office complex without recourse to the Commission, but did not dispute the GH¢3.9 million to demarcate the offices.
She said members of the Commission “have constantly complained to the Chairperson about leaking and damaged roofs, poor electrical wiring, damp walls and lack of storage facilities to store elections equipment, resulting in significant losses and inefficient use of resources at the Commission. It is untrue that the 7 members of the Commission do not see anything wrong with the current offices.”
She pointed out, “the Chairperson informed the Commission in late 2015 that the Commission had requested new office premises from the Presidency to house the new secretariat of the Association of African Election Authorities (AAEA) after Ghana had been voted as a permanent secretariat of the AAEA in July 2015 with responsibility to provide office space for the AAEA. In February 2016, at a Commission meeting, members were informed that government had allocated a new office building to the Commission through the office of the Chief of Staff.”
She also said, “Members were further informed that the new office was a new building and would only require partitioning and all commissioners were encouraged to visit the new premises. The Chairperson subsequently visited the new site with the two Deputy Chairpersons and a commission member, all of who were very excited by the new office.”
She said the transfer of District Electoral Officers could not be said to have been done because the affected persons were perceived to be NPP faithful, saying they were done because “of threats made by political actors on their activities which were likely to compromise the neutrality of the Commission and the integrity of the elections.
“It is within the powers of the Chairperson to transfer district electoral officers either for purposes of protecting the lives of staff or as the exigencies of the Commission’s work requires.”
By William Yaw Owusu