The Judicial Council, through the Chief Justice (CJ), Sophia A.B. Akuffo, is empanelling a committee to look into the alleged abuse of power and corruption scandal that has rocked the Electoral Commission (EC).
There appears to be sufficient grounds for impeachment of the EC officers involved, who are at loggerheads, thereby jeopardizing the operations of the commission.
A five-member committee is expected to investigate the EC chairperson, Charlotte Osei, together with her two deputies – Georgina Opoku-Amankwa, who is in-charge of Corporate Services and Amadu Sulley, in-charge of Operations – as prescribed under Article 146 of the 1992 Constitution.
The committee, to be presided over by a Supreme Court Judge, has two other Court of Appeal judges (male and female), as well as two other members nominated by the Council of State (female and male) as its membership.
Both the judiciary and the Council of State are said to have nominated their respective representatives and as a result, the impeachment proceedings have become imminent.
The committee will soon commence sitting.
Prima Facie Case
The impeachment committee is being established because the Chief Justice, in a preliminary investigation, reportedly established a prima facie case against the three EC bosses following separate petitions filed against them.
According to sources, the CJ is expected to write to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo requesting for an order directed at the three EC officials to step aside before the committee could commence its work.
A source said several infractions in the award of contracts at the EC will feature prominently in the committee’s investigations.
The preliminary investigations into the scandal commenced last August when Madam Sophia Akuffo wrote officially to the commissioners to file their official responses to the allegations leveled against them in the various petitions.
The whole action against the EC officials was triggered by a petition sent to the presidency by Lawyer Maxwell Opoku-Agyemang, who was acting on behalf of some unnamed staff of the commission, seeking to trigger impeachment proceedings against Ms Charlotte Osei.
A litany of allegations were leveled against her, including spending GH¢3.9 million to partition an office, receipt of a bullet-proof Toyota Land Cruiser from the erstwhile National Democratic Congress (NDC) government, spending about $14 million for district offices when the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) had authorized her to use only $7.5 million, as well as attending Cabinet meetings under President John Mahama’s administration, among others.
Later, another petition was filed by a lawyer called Douglas Seidu against the EC boss on grounds of breach of procurement practices and provisions of the Public Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 633) (as amended), gross financial mismanagement, as well as conflict of interest.
The petitioner alleged that Mrs. Osei put herself in a conflict of interest situation when she awarded a contract to Aerovote Security Printing (Ghana) Limited to print the pink sheets used for the 2016 general elections, insisting that she has strong business links with the director of Aerovote and said that she (Osei) had ‘arranged’ the deal even before the procurement process opened.
Lawyer Seidu claimed the EC boss ‘unilaterally’ awarded contracts worth GH¢249,018,895.03 and $71,406,388.80 in breach of procurement processes and also awarded various contracts, including printing of letterheads and a logo for the commission that indicated gross financial mismanagement.
Initially, the EC boss, through her lawyers – Sory@Law – who are also the commission’s external solicitors, hit back at her accusers, insisting that she had not been corrupt or abused her office and rather accused her two deputies of deliberately scheming to frustrate her stay in office.
The chairperson, in her initial response, openly accused Mrs. Opoku-Amankwaa of signing contracts worth over $40 million without her knowledge and authorization between May and September 2015.
Illegal Votes Transfer
She also turned her attention to Amadu Sulley and said apart from transferring votes illegally in the run-up to the 2016 general elections, he (Sulley) also pocketed huge amounts of money from some political parties.
“The Deputy Chairperson, Operations, collected funds above GH¢6million 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,” Ms Charlotte Osei said.
The fight became nastier when other unknown persons who appeared to be on the side of Mrs. Osei, sent a counter petition to the president to investigate her two deputies also for corruption and abuse of office.
Accusations and counter accusations then ensued between the EC boss on one hand and her two deputies on the other. They fought back strongly, trying to parry the chairperson’s allegations.
Mrs. Opoku-Amankwaa, for instance, said in a 25-point response to the EC chairperson’s public statement that “The chairperson’s claim that there was a deliberate strategy to frustrate her work and tenure is palpably false and a figment of her own imagination.”
The deputy commissioner appeared to suggest that it was rather Mrs. Osei who was the problem at the commission and not her or Amadu Sulley.
“Her managerial deficiencies, coupled with her poor human relations and lack of appreciation for team work, are too manifest to escape public judgement,” Ms Opoku-Amankwaa averred.
She also described as “frivolous, useless, fabrications and a figment” of Mrs. Charlotte Osei’s imagination, the allegations leveled against her and asked that they be treated with contempt.
Amadu Sulley did not take issues lightly when he was accused of pocketing GH¢6 million from the parties.
“I don’t understand the motive of the Chair to come out now to make this unfortunate allegation against me and the Deputy Chair, Finance/Administration.”
He also accused Mrs. Osei of sidelining him in the daily operations at the commission.
He said he was taking legal advice and concluded with a sarcastic statement, “If you tell one lie you need a thousand lies to cover up!”
The EC boss then sued Lawyer Opoku-Agyemang for defamation and said she was moving to clear her name; but it is unclear if she has been pursuing the action.
Before the formal preliminary investigation commenced, a private citizen, Ayamga Yakubu Akoglo, had filed a writ at the Supreme Court, seeking to prevent the Chief Justice from going ahead to investigate the EC boss, but it is unclear if the suit was ever determined by the court or withdrawn by the applicant.
The plaintiff had wanted the suit, which also cited the Attorney General, to declare the action being initiated against the EC boss by the Judicial Council as unconstitutional, void and of no effect, after averring that the issues raised in the petition against Mrs. Osei had nothing to do with her core functions as prescribed under Article 45 of the 1992 Constitution and as a result, did not warrant her removal per Article 46 (1) of the Constitution.
Currently, Mrs. Opoku-Amankwa is on interdiction following a complaint filed by Mrs. Osei.
Mrs Opoku-Amankwaa has been facing the EOCO over the alleged misuse of Endowment Fund of the commission’s staff.
Amadu Sulley, on the other hand, is still in office but in the heat of the scandal, accused Mrs. Charlotte Osei of sidelining him in the day-to-day management of the EC, a protest which suggested that the EC Chairperson was running a ‘one-woman’ show.