General News of Tuesday, 25 July 2017
Deputy Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC) in charge of Corporate Services, Georgina Opoku Amankwaa, who is alleged to have signed contracts without proper authorisation has refuted the allegations, insisting that she breached no regulations.
Mrs Opoku Amankwaa’s rebuttal is the latest twist in the thickening internal row at the Electoral Commission (EC), Ghana’s independent elections management body.
Chairperson of the EC, Charlotte Osei, had accused her deputy of signing huge contracts without proper authorisation in a bid to drive home suggestions that an impeachment petition against her by some yet-to-identified staff at the Commission is being orchestrated by persons averse to her clamp down on corruption.
The EC Chairperson had said, “The Deputy Chairperson in charge of Corporate Services has signed contracts worth over GH¢40m without the knowledge and authorisation of the chairperson between July and September 2015.
“Payments were also made on these contracts in excess of her approval limits and again, without the knowledge and authorisation of the chairperson.
“This is illegal, criminal and a breach of the policies of the commission and the laws of Ghana.”
However, Mrs Amanwaa denies any wrongdoing, arguing that her actions were sanctioned by existing conventions at the EC.
“As a matter of principle and convention, the Chair of the Commission’s Entity Tender Committee (ETC) signs award of contract letters. As a result, the contracts under reference had already been approved by the Entity Tender Committee (ETC) which I was the chair. These contracts had been evaluated, reviewed and approved before the Commission gave the Chairperson of the ETC the mandate to sign. The contracts were in respect of procurement of election materials for the District Assembly elections.
I was therefore in an official capacity to sign those contracts and so did I. It is important to underscore that the processes leading to the signing of these contracts had been concluded prior to her taking over as the Chair of the ETC,” the Deputy EC Chair for Corporate Services responds.
She adds that subsequent to Mrs Osei’s assumption as the Chair of the Entity Tender Committee (ETC), she ceased to sign contracts on behalf of the Commission.
She stressed that the Commission was not built around the Chairperson and therefore, Charlotte Osei’s insatiable quest “to seek exclusive jurisdiction over the administration of the Commission defeats the logic of contemporary corporate practice.”
“Election is time-bound and action-packed; therefore, failure to sign contracts timeously has the potential of putting the election calendar at peril. Given the fact that the Chairperson recluse herself from office without informing the deputies, there were few occasions I had to sign contracts in her continuing absence. This was done to ensure that the 2016 General Elections were not in jeopardy. This allegation is therefore frivolous, unmeritorious and borne out of bad faith,” she said.
Long-standing bad blood
There has always been tension between Charlotte Osei and her deputy since Mrs Osei was appointed to Chair the Electoral Commission by former President John Mahama in 2015.
Georgina Opoku Amankwaa and Charlotte Osei both worked at the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) until Mrs Amankwaa replaced Mr Kwadwo Safo Kantanka in 2013 as Deputy EC Chair in charge of Corporate Services.
However, Mrs. Osei’s appointment as the substantive Chair in 2015 would seem a by-pass of a position that should have gone to the Mrs Amankwaa who had been working at the Commission two years prior to Mrs Ose’s appointment.
But the feud escalated after the Mrs Osei asked her deputy to proceed on leave her her alleged involvement in a missing GH¢480,000 endowment cash for EC staff.
Anti-graft agency, the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) is investigating the issue, albeit a fierce challenge by counsel for Mrs Amankwaa, Mr. Maxwell Opoku Agyemang, over the directive that his client proceeds on leave.
Incidentally, Mr Opoku Agyemang is also the counsel fronting for the nameless petitioners calling for the impeachment of the EC boss.
Following the allegations against her, Mrs Osei has been on a war path against Mrs Amankwaa and another of her six deputies, Mr Amadu Sulley, accusing the two of administrative incompetence and blatant breaches of financial regulations.
Charlotte Osei in a response to the petition by the faceless staff at the EC also accused her deputy in charge of Finance and Administration, Amadu Sulley, of keeping GH¢6 million from political parties without the knowledge of the finance department of the Commission. Mr Sulley is said to have used party primaries as a “private commercial project”.
“Political party primaries were treated as a private commercial project by the Deputy Chairperson in charge of operations, 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 Chairperson, Operations is attached and marked ‘CO28A’. This situation cannot be allowed to continue,” Mrs Osei had said. Mr Sulley has also denied the allegations.
Governance think tank, the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) has called for a bipartisan Parliament probe into the intensifying row at the Commission.
CDD Executive Director, Franklin Oduro, believes a Parliamentary probe may prove a credible fix to the “worrying situation” at the Commission.
He said the contest of allegations reflects inherent problems with election administration in general.
He said if these allegations are not investigated they will remain a damning blot on the integrity of the Electoral Commission and undermine the way it operates.