The Chairperson of the Electoral Commission , Charlotte Osei has responded to allegations of financial malfeasance leveled against her by employees of the Commission.
Mrs Osei in her response, pointed out among others that the allegations were unfounded, saying; “There is clearly, no established case of fraud or abuse of office made against the Chairperson. The public purse, should be, and must be protected even at the EC.”
“It is clear from the manner in which these allegations have been laid – in the court of public opinion – based on no facts and only malicious intent of persons protecting corrupt and unscrupulous acts,” she added.
The employees accused Mrs Osei of cronyism among others.
She has threatened to sue the employees for making these claims.
Her response to the allegations leveled against her is below
RE: PETITION AGAINST THE CHAIRPERSON OF ELECTORAL COMMISSION, MRS. CHARLOTTE OSEI
As a point of order with regard to the recent unfounded accusations leveled at Mrs. Charlotte Osei in her capacity as Chairperson of the EC Ghana, Mr. Maxwell Opoku-Agyemang is not a staff member of the Commission. Whilst he claims to act on behalf of “Concerned Staff” of the Commission, he has not made clear who those “staff’ indeed are. This is of particular importance as he has previously introduced himself at another forum as counsel for Ms. Georgina Opoku-Amankwaa, the deputy Chairperson Corporate Services of the Commission. In order for this to be considered as a legitimate submission on behalf of the staff, the names and signatures of these concerned staff must be provided in support of the so-called petition submitted.
With regard to the baseless allegations, below is a detailed response on all points raised with supporting documentation, which it is noted, Mr. Maxwell Opoku-Agyemang and his fictitious petitioners have failed to provide.
Claim 1: “Madam Charlotte Osei, the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission on 30th June, 2015 assumed office as Article 71 appointee whiles still holding office as a Board Member of Ghana Re Insurance, a public company contrary to Article 44(4) of the 1992 Constitution. When the use was raised, the PRO of Ghana Re confirmed that she only resigned on December 5th, 2015. This means that whiles holding office as the Chairperson of the Commission, she was still a Board Member of Ghana Re Insurance.”
Response 1: Ghana Reinsurance is a limited liability company with shares held by the government of Ghana. A non-executive director position is not a “public office” which my esteemed counsel should well know.
Claim 2: “Mrs. Charlotte Osei was appointed as Chairperson of Electoral Commission of Ghana while holding office as Chairperson of the National Commission of Civic Education contrary to the 1992 Constitution. In fact, it was announced as her swearing-in ceremony by the former president that he received her resignation from the NCCE on 29th June, 2017 before the swearing in.”
Response 2: Appointment to the office of Chairperson of the Electoral Commission took effect on June 30, 2015. Resignation as Chairperson of the NCCE pre-dated the swearing in on June 30, 2015. The Chairperson therefore cannot be accused of holding two public positions simultaneously. She certainly did not receive two salaries for the month of June 2015.
Claim 3: “Following her appointment as EC chair, Mrs. Charlotte compromised the independence and neutrality of the Commission by arranging for 2015 V8 Landcruiser with registration WR 2291-15 from the Office of the President for use as official vehicle without going through the procurement process or recourse to the Commission.”
Response 3: Following her appointment as Chairperson, Mrs. Osei was allocated a vehicle by the Office of the Chief of Staff. This is certainly not a new practice. Indeed, the office of the Chief of Staff provided and continues to provide vehicles for many government institutions and appointees. The Chairperson could therefore not have compromised her independence or neutrality as she never requested nor lobbied for the said vehicle. Indeed, this flawed argument would imply that the Commission receiving money from the Government of Ghana compromises the neutrality of the Commission.
Claim 4: “The political posture of the Chairperson prior to the conduct of the 2016 General Election nearly pushed Ghana to the precipices. But for the action of technical and competent staff of the Commission, she could have plunged this country into civil war.”
Response 4: The petitioners would have to define “political posture” which nearly pushed the country to civil war. It is a witnessed fact that during the election, the Chairperson was in touch directly with the two main candidates in the presidential election in her capacity as Returning Officer. The then candidates are in a position to confirm this. The Chairperson remained in continuous contact with the hierarchy of the Ghana Police Service and the Military until the final declaration of results to ensure a peaceful conclusion to the election. It is well documented by several observer bodies that this election was safe, free and fair and the Chairperson is directly acknowledged as having been instrumental in ensuring this.
Claim 5: “Mrs. Charlotte Osei, without recourse to the Commission engaged the Service of lawyers [email protected] without going through the procurement process. This service engagement goes contrary to the Public Procurement Act. As at now, there is no formal contractual arrangement between the Commission and the Solicitors. The basis of fees computation for services rendered by these lawyers still remains unknown.”
Response 5: [email protected] Law was retained on the basis of a decision of the Commission taken at a Commission meeting of September 2015. It was made clear at the meeting that fees for litigation related work cannot be agreed ahead as it would depend on the complexity of each case and the court where a case was filed. For instance, Supreme Court cases are usually billed higher than cases conducted at the High Court. It was therefore the function of the Chairperson to refer all incoming law suits to [email protected] on the basis of the Commission’s decision. It was the function of the Deputy Chair F/A to negotiate the fees for each matter referred with [email protected] Indeed, all bills submitted by Messrs. [email protected] for over ten cases referred in 2015/2016 remain unpaid. If it is true that the Chairperson unilaterally retained [email protected], 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 [email protected] to discuss pending cases.
Claim 6: “The Commission signed a contract with Super Tech Limited (STL) on the premise that the Voters Registration Exercise was going to be electoral area based. Upon assumption of office as the Chairperson of the Commission, Mrs. Charlotte Osei unilaterally abrogated the said contract without recourse to the same Commission that approved the earlier version. She single handedly renegotiated the contract with the vendor without 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 reawarded these contracts without seeking approval from the Commission. In the opinion of the Commission, these contracts could have been negotiated further down if members of the Commission had been involved. This is because the change in the 2016 voters registration process required automatic reduction in these contracts.”
- Response 6: The two Deputy Chairpersons signed 2 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 re-negotiate 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.
Claim 7: “As part of compromising her independence and neutrality, Mrs. Charlotte Osei claimed that the Electoral Commission has been allocated a new building for use as office complex without the approval of the Commission. The 7 member Commission has not at any point in time formally requested for any office allocation since the Commission sees nothing wrong the current office. With the Chairperson’s insatiable demand of affluence and flamboyance, she unilaterally awarded a contract to the tune of GHS3.9 Million for demarcation and partitioning of the said office complex without recourse to the Commission. She claimed she sought approval from the Public Procurement Authority but strangely enough, the contract sum is higher than approved level.”
Response 7: 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 (extract of minutes attached as CO7A), members were informed that Government had allocated a new office building to the Commission through the office of the Chief of Staff. Members were further informed that the new office was a new build 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. The Chairperson has no control over the office of the Chief of Staff or the Presidency and clearly cannot obtain the permission of the Commission if a new office is allocated to the Commission. The current offices have major structural defects, parts of the roof are collapsing, significant leakages in most offices, damp and mouldy walls, electrical defects have been discovered and pointed out by the Fire Service for urgent attention (please see CO7B attached), the building lacks disability access, is decrepit and outdated, requiring extensive work and expense to make it habitable and reflective of the office of the Electoral Commission. The building houses precious lives of staff of the Commission and sensitive national assets such as the largest database of Ghanaians currently in the country. The current office space is not suitable by any standards.
With regard to the contract for partitioning of the 8-floor office building, the procurement laws were scrupulously followed. Copies of the Tender evaluation report is attached and marked CO7C. Directors of the Commission at the head office (Finance, HR, IT and Electoral Services), and an external consultant were members of the evaluation panel. The bid submitted by Inocon Limited was the lowest of the three bids and was recommended to the Chairperson for approval.
The Chairperson of the Commission is not and has never been a member of the tender evaluation committee and cannot therefore, influence the award of the contract. The Chairperson is the only one authorised by the policies of the Commission to sign contracts (copy of policy attached and marked CO7D). In any case, for the said contract that is allegedly unknown to the Commission, payment was approved and paid by the Deputy Chairperson CS without the knowledge and authorization of the Chairperson.
There is no requirement in law or in policy, for the Chairperson to seek the approval of the Commission for the execution of any contracts. Evidence of any law or policy requiring this approval should be presented by the petitioners.
An investigation into the processes for award of the contract and a value for money assessment would be welcome as it would be based on law and policies and not motivated by ill will and pettiness.
Claim 8: “Mrs. Charlotte Osei has been engaging in cronyism by awarding a contracts to the tune of $14,310,961 United States Dollars to her cronies for the construction of pre-fabricated District offices without recourse to the Commission. The value of these contracts is in excess of the approved threshold by the Public Procurement Authority. One of the contractors by name Messrs Contracts & Cads Limited is related to Mrs. Charlotte Osei. Upon receipt of advance mobilization under the approval of the Chairperson, the company has failed to meet the contract terms. Notwithstanding the clear breach of the contractual terms, the company has requested for additional payment which the Chairperson has approved. The Director of Finance has stopped the payment of this request. This accounts for one of the reasons of the Chairperson’s disaffection for the Director of Finance.”
Response 8: A contract was awarded for the construction of 100 district offices to Messrs Clicotech and Messrs. Cads Contracts & Services on a 58-42 basis. Although Messrs Cads Contracts was the only company that met all the criteria at the Entity Tender Committee level (please see document marked CO8A), the tender evaluation committee recommended that they be awarded 42% of the contract for stated reasons. The Chairperson followed in total, the recommendations of the evaluation panel (copy attached and marked CO8B) in awarding the contract. In following the recommendation, there was clearly no wrongdoing or alleged cronyism by the Chairperson. If the Chairperson intended to award the contract to Cads Contracts based on cronyism, then the same Chairperson would not have given Clicotech Limited an extended time (with consent of the other bidders) to submit its audited accounts to enable it meet the tender requirements.
The Consultant engaged by the Commission has been actively involved in the management of the contract. He has visited all the project sites, written to confirm work done by both contractors and to endorse the certificates raised by both contractors. The consultant has not raised any issues of impropriety on the contract. Indeed, the consultant has recently written a letter to the Chairperson reminding her of the need to honour payment obligations to the contractors as per the terms of the contract. Incidentally, on these same contracts, mobilization payments were made to both contractors in December 2016, without the knowledge and approval of the Chairperson. These are matters of grave financial impropriety that require further investigation.
Claim 9: “The Chairperson has brought the Commission’s name into disrepute for single handedly petitioning EOCO on an alleged misappropriation of staff endowment fund for malicious reasons. This is because the issue has come before the entire Commission for redress. The decision to go to EOCO was not that of the Commission but characteristically unilateral decision by the Chairperson.”
Response 9: The Chairperson has NOT submitted a petition to EOCO on the Endowment Fund issue. However, the Chairperson believes that EOCO is the right institution being a fact finding body, to investigate the issue of what the endowment fund contributions of staff, which were not paid into the Fund for eight months in 2014 were used for. This matter has been before the Commission since February 2015 and has not been resolved. A memo sent by the Chairperson on December 1, 2015 on the issue has not been responded to as of today. The vouchers indicating the application of the Funds have not been submitted inspite of repeated requests by the Chairperson and repeated claims by the deputy Chairperson of their availability. The Commission cannot by itself, use 2017 funds released by the Ministry of Finance, to repay obligations incurred in 2014, with no documentation and not recorded in the audit report of 2014 as an outstanding obligation, without the report of a separate institution like EOCO. If there has been any embarrassment to the Commission, it is based on the failure to keep proper accounting records in the matter.
Claim 10: “The Commission procured grant from USAID as part of the support of the 2016 General Election. This facility was signed by the then Minister of Finance. By Article 175 of the 1992 Constitution and in line with Section 5 of the Financial Administration Act, 2003 (Act 654), these grants constitute Public Funds. As part of the implementation of this grant the Chairperson, Mrs. Charlotte Osei, without the Commission’s approval unilaterally recruited Personal Assistant and a Communication Officer and paid them $1,500 and $2,500 United States Dollars respectively. This was done without clearance from the Ministry of Finance.”
Response 10: The Chairperson and the Commission did not require the permission of the Ministry of Finance to utilize funds agreed with the USAID in the manner agreed by USAID in the Funding contract. All expenditure of donor funds is carried out in line with the policies of the donor agency. The petitioners would have to provide further proof of this requirement and show how in disbursement of other donor funds the Commission has sought the permission of the Ministry of Finance. The Chairperson followed the rules of the funding agency to the letter. The Chairperson does not need the approval of the Commission to appoint temporary staff and consultants deemed necessary and agreed in the Grant letter.
Claim 11: “The Chairperson unilaterally transferred District Electoral Officers she perceived to be pro-NPP to deprived areas prior to the 2016 general elections without the knowledge of the Commission contrary to administrative procedures.
Response 11: The petitioners would have to show the basis for the perception that the district electoral officers transferred were pro a certain political party. They would also what action was taken and should have been taken against district electoral officers performing key functions and showing party biases as they allege. These officers were transferred 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.
Claim 12: “Since her assumption of office, the Chairperson has polarized the Commission along political lines. Her political posture prior to the 2016 General Election is evidence for public judgment.”
Response 12: This is palpably untrue. Indeed, the Chairperson assumed office in a very politically polarized environment and has worked very hard with staff, staff associations and unions to create a healthier work environment.
Claim 13: “The leadership of Mrs. Charlotte Osei has brought about an irreversible disunity among Commission Members to the extent that she is not on speaking terms with the deputies and other Commission members. There is total breakdown of administrative structures of the Commission.”
Response 13. 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. Deputies take managerial decisions and implement same without the knowledge of the Chairperson; threaten staff who 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. Please see documents attached and marked CO13A. It would be helpful for our fictitious petitioners to provide evidence to the contrary.
Claim 14: “Mrs. Charlotte Osei persistently antagonized the then opposition, NPP prior to the 2016 General Elections to the extent she never met any of the leadership who sought audience with her to discuss issues of concern. This contrary to her over patronage of the then ruling NDC including her attendance of Cabinet Meetings.”
Response 14: The leadership of the NPP is in a position to confirm several meetings held with Mrs. Osei to discuss their concerns. Indeed, in one of those meetings with the two deputy chairpersons, it was discovered that the Deputy Chair Ops had unilaterally and without the knowledge of the Chairperson or the Commission created over 1000 (one thousand) additional polling stations for the district level elections of September 1, 2015.
Mrs Osei has NEVER attended a cabinet meeting and shown absolutely no patronage to the NDC. The petitioners would be compelled to provide evidence in support of these allegations.
Claim 15: “Mrs. Charlotte Osei frequently travels out of the jurisdiction without informing either the Commission or any of her deputies.”
Response 15: 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 behavior.
Claim 16: “Mrs. Charlotte Osei harbored personal vendetta against a vendor by name Messrs Buck Press Limited on the premise that he belongs to NPP. She categorically made this statement in an interview with BBC. In view of this, she unilaterally without recourse to the Commission removed the company’s name from the list of vendors already approved by PPA to do business contrary to the Public Procurement Act.”
Response 16: The BBC interview transcripts are available and would show that Mrs. Osei never made any comments which showed a personal vendetta against Messrs. Buck Press or mentioned his party affiliation which is unknown to her. The petitioners would be required to provide documentary evidence of these allegations.
Messrs Buck Press was awarded 2 contracts by the Commission in 2016; 1 contract in 2015; 2 contracts in 2014; 1 contract in 2013; and 2 contracts in 2012 (Please see letter attached and marked CO16A). Messrs Buck Press was one of four companies who put in a tender for the printing and supply of carbonised forms. The contract was awarded to Aerovote Ghana on the basis of the recommendations of the Tender Evaluation committee report submitted to the Chairperson. The Chairperson is NOT a member of the evaluation committee. The tender evaluation committee was chaired by the director of finance and included the directors of HR, IT and Electoral Services at the Commission. There is no record of the evaluation committee recommending that the contract should be awarded to Buck Press and that the Chairperson flouted such recommendation. Furthermore, the Chairperson was informed by the evaluation committee that Aerovote was the only company with the capacity to print the carbonized forms IN GHANA. Consequently, for the first time in our electoral history, political party representatives could monitor the process of printing of carbonized forms which led to higher levels of transparency and the integrity of our electoral process. The Chairperson has no personal issue against Messrs. Buck Press. The Commission has maintained the same seven main printers it has always done business with and the Chairperson maintains a cordial relationship with all the printing companies.
Claim 17: “The Chairperson, Mrs. Charlotte Osei assuming Office has consistently attempted to demonise her predecessor, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan and taking steps to de-recognise the legacy of her predecessor.”
Response 17: The Chairperson has always shown the highest levels of respect and admiration for her predecessor and she maintains a very warm relationship with Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan and his family. Indeed, in most interviews she has granted, she has always paid tribute to the excellent legacy left by her predecessor particularly in the area of putting in place structures that support and enhance credible and transparent elections. In any case, assuming without admitting that this allegation was true, how does this become a ground for impeachment under the 1992 Constitution of Ghana?
Claim 18: “Mrs. Charlotte Osei has consistently approved for payment of $76,000 United States Dollars to an IT company, Dream Oval Limited without contract contrary to the Financial Administration Act.”
Response 18: The contract with Dream Oval was funded by the USAID and awarded in line with USAID procurement policies. The USAID has not complained of any breaches of policies and has agreed to pay the additional costs necessitated by the additional security infrastructure that Dream Oval had to put in place for the Commission’s website. There has been no breach of any law or policy put in place by USAID with regard to this matter. This is therefore, another baseless allegation founded on mischievous imaginations.
Claim 19: “The Chairperson through her arrogant posture brought embarrassment to the Commission by refusing to grant audience to the members of the National Peace Council and the leader of the Africa Union Delegation Mr. Thabo Mbeki, the former president of South Africa during the 2016 General Election.”
Response 19: It is patently untrue that the chairperson refused to meet President Mbeki and the National Peace Council. The Peace Council came on an unscheduled visit to the office at a time the Chairperson was away from the office. There were subsequent conversations and meetings with the Chair of the National Peace Council, which the Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Asante can confirm. The Chairperson met President Thabo Mbeki on December 1, 2016. There is pictorial evidence of the meeting (please see attached and marked CO19A). There were also several phone conversations with President Mbeki before and after the December elections. Indeed, after the elections, President Mbeki called personally to congratulate the chairperson on her warmth, hard work, exemplary leadership and excellent organization of the elections. It would be most helpful for the petitioners to establish basic facts available as matters of public record in their quest to vilify the Chairperson.
Claim 20: “The Chairperson is managerially and administratively inept. She lacks managerial experience or capacity and knowledge of corporate governance structures and regulatory compliance. She has no respect for the organizational structure of the Commission to the extent that she deals directly with directors and senior officers without recourse to the deputies. The Chairperson lacks the requisite managerial skills in public administration. This point needs no elucidation since the current leadership style is publicly known.”
Response 20: The evidence of the Chairperson’s managerial competence is evident from the Observer reports of local and international election observer mission reports and the commendation from regional directors and senior staff on the organization of the 2016 elections and the many positive changes at the Commission since the tenure of the current chairperson.
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.
Financial statements and bank statements are not submitted to the Chairperson or the Commission. Budgets and audit queries are not formally presented to the Chairperson or the Commission. Approvals and payments are made on the blind side of the chairperson and in excess of approved limits. The attempts by the Chairperson to ensure proper structures and financial management systems have led to disputes with the deputy Chairpersons and staff who benefit financially and illegally from the chaos. The Chairperson refuses to superintend a system that engenders endemic corruption and poor administrative structures.
It should be noted that all these actions amounting to financial malfeasance and impropriety would be documented and submitted to the requisite authority for investigations.
Claim 21: “The Chairperson had poor human relations not befitting of any leader in public space.”
Response 21: The Chairperson has a warm and friendly relationship with all staff and maintains an open door policy. The Chairperson only has difficulties with staff who do not want to see the progress of the Commission and want to continue to preserve their illegal commercial kingdoms for personal gain within the Commission.
In 2015, attempts by the Chairperson to stop district electoral officers from inserting ghost names on the list of officials recruited for the 2015 district level elections, to enable them appropriate the allowances for the officials resulted in the Chairperson being reported to the BNI for investigation. In the report attached hereto and marked CO21A, staff admit to a culture of misappropriation of funds meant for electoral staff, assert that this practice is a ‘convention’ at the Commission.
A work culture that permits staff to steal with such boldness is extremely unfortunate and cannot be allowed to continue.
Claim 22: “The Chairperson has submitted an estimate of over GHS1million for the renovation of the official bungalow for the Chairperson without recourse to the Commission or appropriate staff in the Commission.”
Response 22: The estimate for renovation of a house indicates the level of work required to be done in the house. It is not a contract and there is no breach of the law occasioned by submitting an estimate. It is in fact the Deputy Chair Ops that is in breach of process reflected in his actions in 2015 when without recourse to the Chairperson, the Deputy Chair Ops verbally authorized a Director to undertake repairs to the Chairman’s official residence for the use of the said Director.
Upon submission of the estimate of works done, it would have been expected that the Deputy Chair F/A who oversees administration, would have started a proper procurement process for the renovation of the Chairperson’s residence. To date, no work has been initiated and the Chairperson is still unable to move into the official residence two years after appointment. In the same vein, the Chairperson was never provided with an office three months after joining the Commission. She had to initiate the moves herself to get suitable office premises and furnish it personally.
Claim 23: “The Chairperson has constituted herself into the Commission’s Tender Review Committee contrary to the Public Procurement Act. She singularly chairs the Entity Tender Committee and Tender Review Committee at the same time. This puts her into conflict of interest position and this is a clear breach of the public Procurement Act.
Response 23: The Chairperson’s headship of the Commission’s Entity Tender Committee (ETC) is in line with the law, commission policy and was a decision taken at a Commission meeting after its review of the UNDP commissioned assessment report on the EC. That report highlighted major breaches of procurement law and poor procurement and financial management regime at the Commission prior to the appointment of the Chairperson. To establish conflict of interest, it needs to be shown exactly what actions the Chairperson has taken in her capacity as head of the ETC which show that her personal interest have conflicted with her official position. The fictitious petitioners have failed to establish this.
Claim 24: “The chairperson since assumption of office does not know any regional or district of the Electoral Commission. She has blatantly refused to visit any of the offices of the Commission citing security reasons. Surprisingly, since her assumption to duty, she has never visited any of the offices of the deputies.”
Response 24: As with all large organizations, the Chairperson in her leadership is required to prioritize major issues around clear priorities within the Commission. At the time of the appointment of the Chairperson, the strategic and organizational priorities did not allow for significant local travel to the regions. Security has never been a cited reason for the failure to travel and proof of this would be requested from the petitioners. As with all large organisations, the Chairperson is required to allow the responsible leadership to keep her informed of the needs of the organisation whilst she may not personally be able to visit every office – it is with this knowledge of the deplorable state of district and regional offices, and in some cases, no district offices at all, that the Chairperson commissioned the construction of 100 district offices due to be completed this year.
In the Chairperson’s short tenure of 24 months at the Commission, she has supervised the conduct of two national elections and 4 by-elections and undertaken significant travel related to Commission work and AAEA obligations. Whilst the Chairperson regrets not being in a position to visit each and every station and district office, the nature of constraints of time and organisation priorities she has been unable to do so – however it is clearly the responsibility of the Deputy of Operations to do so.
The Chairperson has visited the offices of her deputies. In any case, it is baffling why this issue should be of major concern to the ‘concerned staff” of the Commission, and be elevated to an impeachable offence and of greater importance to staff than the security of their retirement funds and their general well being.
Claim 25: “On the issue of Staff Endowment Fund she blatantly refused to meet the Senior Staff Association and the Union in the presence of the deputies and by extension the Commission. The allegations against the Deputy Commissioners and other staff have not been brought before the Commission only to surface at EOCO. The Chairperson cause the said auditing of the Endowment Fund without recourse to the Commission. The said audit report was not brought to the attention of the relevant persons for their comments or responses in line with best practice of auditing standards.”
Response 25: The Chairperson has had many, many meetings with the Senior Staff Association (SSA) and Union executives on the issue of the endowment fund. The president of the SSA Mr. Joseph Addo Boateng and Mr. Charles Botchey, union chair can confirm this. Indeed, she has never refused a meeting with the two bodies to discuss the endowment fund issue. The staff bodies are aware of her tireless efforts to resolve the issues regarding the endowment fund monies since November 2015. The Chairperson wrote letters to retired Director of Finance and Chief Accountant in February 2016 seeking their input towards a resolution of the issue. Further, she commissioned an internal audit report into the Fund in March 2016. These have all yielded no conclusions, as the payment vouchers to support the fact that the endowment fund monies were used for operational purposes were never provided.
Claim 26: “The Chairperson has lost popularity, legitimacy and touch with the staff and some members of the Commission. She has failed to manage the Commission as a corporate entity.”
Response 26: Legitimacy is conferred by law and cannot be lost simply on baseless, frivolous allegations that are lacking in substance, not factual, and actuated by malice. The Chairperson has consistently delivered on her mandate in an exemplary manner as reflected by the several commendations received by her from the international and local community on the successful elections held in 2016.
The Chairperson is responsible for leadership of an organization mandated by the law and subject to the law. The rules of engagement are clearly defined in the law and corporate governance is a critical component to the successful operation of the Commission. Delivery of this requires that the leadership take unpopular decisions to ensure that the broader needs of the Commission and the people of Ghana are placed ahead of the desires of corrupt, unscrupulous individuals with the sole desire to enrich themselves at the expense of our Democracy. Where there is an endemic culture of corruption and the Chairperson is attempting to eradicate same, clearly she will not be expected to be popular with the beneficiaries of the corrupt system. Where leadership of the Commission seeks popularity, either with staff or external stakeholders, then leadership of the Commission would be failing in its duty to the people of Ghana and breaching the oaths of office that they have sworn to on appointment.
Claim 27: “The Chairperson, Mrs. Charlotte Osei unilaterally awarded a contract of about $25,000 to a South African company, Quazar Limited to change and redevelop the Commission’s logo under the guise of rebranding without going to tender contrary to the Public Procurement Act.”
Response 27: The decision to prepare a strategic plan and rebrand the Commission was a decision of the full commission at a meeting. Quazar was selected out of three companies and contracted by the UNDP to assist the Commission complete its Strategic Plan and rebranding. The UNDP was very happy with the services of Quazar and the UNDP has not submitted any complaints of any breaches in the award of contract process. Indeed, representatives of Quazar had several meetings and workshops with senior staff and members of the Commission. It is therefore unclear the basis for the complaints that the Chairperson unilaterally engaged the services of Quazar. In addition, Quazar was not paid US25,000. Quazar was paid about GHS23,000 as supported by the documents attached and marked CO27A. It would be most helpful if the petitioners would get basic facts right.
- 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. A few examples will suffice here
- The Deputy Chairperson F/A has signed contracts worth over GHS40m without knowledge and authorization of the Chairperson between July-September 2015. Payments were also made on these contracts in excess of her approval limits and again, without the knowledge and authorization of the Chairperson. This is illegal, criminal and a breach of the policies of the Commission and the laws of Ghana. The supporting documents would be submitted to the relevant investigative agencies for their further action.
- In June 2017, the annual leave of Deputy Chair Operations was approved by the Deputy Chair CS without recourse to the Chairperson and signed on behalf of Chairperson by Deputy Chair CS while she herself was on leave. This is poor knowledge of corporate governance and managerial ineptitude. Indeed, the Deputy Chairperson CS has arrogated to herself the powers of the Chairperson, convening commission meetings and taking other ultra vires decisions in clear breach of the Law.
- The Deputy Chair CS went on an unauthorised leave from May 19 – June 19 2017 without notice to the Chairperson and without prior approval. A sick leave note was subsequently submitted to the Director of HR.
- While on leave in June 2017, the deputy Chairperson without authorization and notice to the Chairperson, approved 2015 financial statements of the Commission, increased in the amount for fuel coupons beyond budgeted levels and without prior knowledge of the Chairperson or the Commission. Clearly, there is ample evidence of poor knowledge of corporate governance, rules of public service financial management and general incompetence.
- Under the supervision of the Deputy Chair CS, staff in the finance department have flouted many financial regulations, amended bank mandates, and made many unauthorized payments beyond their approval levels and without the knowledge of the Chairperson. Again, supporting documents would be submitted to the appropriate agencies for further investigation.
- The poor financial management systems within the Commission are systemic. In some cases, Commission funds are paid into personal accounts of staff members in the region.
- A surreptitious attempt was made to remove the Chairperson of the Commission from the GIFMIS platform to enable payments to be made on the blind side of the Chairperson.
- The Deputy Chair Ops has persistently effected illegal vote transfers from his office on the Voter management System in clear breach of the law and operational policies of the Commission. Such actions have major implications for the integrity of the work of the Commission and constitute abuse of office.
- The Deputy Chair Operations collected above funds GHS 6m (Six million Ghana cedis) in cash from political parties for the organization of party primaries without recourse to the structures of the Commission, without the involvement of the finance department of the Commission. Political party primaries were treated as a private commercial project by the Deputy Chair Ops, with funds paid directly into the personal accounts of key staff for functions to be performed for party primaries. An internal audit report highlighting widespread malfeasance in the conduct of party primaries under the supervision of the Deputy Chair Operations is attached and marked CO28. This situation cannot be allowed to continue.
It is clear from the manner in which these allegations have been laid – in the court of public opinion – based on no facts and only malicious intent of persons protecting corrupt and unscrupulous acts. These acts enrich solely the practitioners of these acts, and there is no intent to abide by the law of the land nor truly be of service to the people of Ghana. There is clearly, no established case of fraud or abuse of office made against the Chairperson. The public purse, should be, and must be protected even at the EC. The independence granted the Commission under the Constitution does not mean immunity to flout all the financial laws of Ghana, waste public funds and unlawfully enrich corrupt public officials.
The role of the EC is to enable the citizens to participate in free and fair elections – it has and will always remain the guiding principle of the Chairperson. It is only those that are eager to subvert the law and engage in illegal actions that will not support this mandate in its implementation and vision of creating a World Class Electoral Commission.
By: Marian Ansah/citifmonline.com/Ghana