Confusion Hits EC Boss

Some issues are coming out of the appointment of Charlotte Kesson-Smith Osei as Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC), among which is the accusation that President John Mahama is setting bad precedent.

Until her appointment as the new EC boss, Mrs Osei was the Chairperson of the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE), the body responsible for public education on civic matters.

The outgoing NCCE boss, according to DAILY GUIDE sources, had earlier been nominated to the Supreme Court but was shot down for lack of practising experience and also that her age did not warrant that elevation.

Her position as former NCCE and now EC boss is coterminous with a judge of the court of appeal.

Questions have been raised about how President Mahama literally plucked the new EC boss from an independent constitutional body like the NCCE, where she enjoyed secure tenure, and planted her at the EC – another independent body – prompting various legal arguments.

This is in view of a constitutional provision which does not allow the president to remove the heads of such independent constitutionally mandated institutions like the NCCE, EC and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ).

With this development, analysts are of the strong belief that a future president could also move the EC chairperson to any of the constitutional bodies, if vacancy was created.

The country’s Constitution enjoins the president to appoint heads of such bodies on the advice and in consultation with the Council of State.

According to political analysts, the president was said to have sidestepped the advice of the Council.

Insider information has it that the Council of State made recommendations for the president to consider either Ms Georgina Opoku Amankwaa or Amadu Sulley – all deputy commissioners of the EC – for appointment as substantive head of the electoral body following the exit of Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan who is gone on retirement.

President Mahama is, however, said to have turned down the advice and opted for Mrs Osei when she had indeed not resigned her position as NCCE boss, complicating the matter.

Again, sources have told DAILY GUIDE that the president nominated the NCCE head for appointment as a Supreme Court judge on four different occasions following the exit of two judges on the bench who had gone on retirement.

The sources said Mrs Osei’s nomination was roundly rejected on all occasions by the judiciary Council for lack of experience to do the job.

This, according to the sources, was what seemed to have provoked the president to spite the judiciary and the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) by naming her as the new EC boss. Some watchers of the political scene consider the appointment to be a capricious show of executive power at a time the mode of appointments to the EC is being challenged at the Supreme Court.

The question as to how this power to appoint heads of the constitutional bodies should be exercised properly is a matter yet to be determined by the court, following a suit filed by a journalist, Richard Dela Sky, and an Accra-based private legal practitioner, Kwasi Danso-Acheampong.

They have both filed writs at the nation’s apex court praying the court to clarify the constitutional provisions on the mode of appointments to the EC.

Reliable sources say last week’s appointment set to move Mrs Osei from her current job happened despite strong objections from some of the president’s close advisors, who had equally fiercely opposed the failed idea of making her a Supreme Court Judge.

The revelations also indicated that the Council of State had recommended Justice S.K. Marful-Sau, an Appeal Court Judge and Prof Henrietta Mensah-Bonsu, Director of Legon Centre for International Affairs and Diplomacy (LECIAD) and a Full Professor of Law at the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, Legon, for the Supreme Court appointments, but the Council’s advice was not heeded by President Mahama.

Instead, he chose persons not recommended by the Council, namely, Justice Yaw Apau, Sole Commissioner for Judgement Debt and Gabriel Scott Pwamang, former PNC General Secretary, who comes from the same village as Justice William Atuguba who presided over the 2012 presidential petition at the Supreme Court.

Last week, Parliament approved the nomination of the two men after the Appointments Committee had cleared them to work as Justices of the Supreme Court.

The approval came after a damaging petition against Gabriel Pwamang’s nomination had been withdrawn by the complainant for an undisclosed reason.

The two justices were sworn-in yesterday by the president.

By Charles Takyi-Boadu

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