General News of Friday, 28 July 2017
Resolving the personality challenges at Ghana’s Electoral Commission may prove to be one of the biggest and most difficult constitutional hurdles that we may have to confront in the coming months, if not years.
How do we deal with an Electoral Commissioner who does not have confidence in her deputies? How do we handle this conundrum in which at least two deputy commissioners do not have the confidence in their boss?
Do we proceed on a utilitarian basis and shove off the Electoral Commissioner? Or do we proceed in a manner that would eventually see the Deputy Commissioners bowing out? These are not easy questions.
In truth, it would have been easy if all the parties in this drama were in the private sector. A private employer could have just terminated them at the snap of a finger.
If they were directors, the shareholders could take steps to ensure their removal. But these are not “ordinary” persons holding just any position.
These are men and women whose tenures are guaranteed. And knocking any of them off would be a tall order.
According to the Constitution, the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission shall have the same terms and conditions of service as a justice of the Court of Appeal. And the two deputy chairpersons of the commission shall have the same terms and conditions as a justice of the High Court.
This means that they do not have a fixed term to stay in office. It all depends on their age. In the case of a Justice of the court of appeal, the retirement age is 65 whiles that of a High Court judge is 60.
This means that until some wrongdoing is established against any of these Commissioners, age may well be the final adjudicator.
Their removal is not an overnight affair. It will take a lot of sittings. A lot of discussions. A lot of energy. And of course a lot of emotions.
From the discussions that have taken place on social media, radio and television, there is one thing that is clear – there is no sense of trust between the commissioners. Allegations of impropriety of different sorts and kinds have been thrown around.
We have heard of allegations regarding the use of the office of the Electoral Commission to further private gains. We have heard of allegation in relation to the use of the office of the Electoral Commission to work electoral injustices.
We have heard of inflated contracts. We have heard of allegations of the Commissioner receiving a vehicle from the former President Mahama and so on.
These allegations have clearly lowered the image and reputation of the Electoral Commission in the sight of the public. And it is obvious that the current occupants of the office are not the right people to salvage it.
What an institution is at any point in time is the aggregate of the conduct of the persons running the institution. So an institution is strong and has integrity only to the extent that the persons running that institution are men and women of integrity.
Buildings do not make institutions. Persons do. An institution is the sum total of the preferences of the persons occupying it.
There is no way we are going to have a solid Electoral Commission with the divided house that we see. If things continue as they are, turfs wars will abound. Unnecessary disagreements will flourish. Building consensus will be impossible. Getting people to give off their best will be close to impossible.
Persons will only be paid for warming their seats and folding their arms. Nothing more. Nothing less. This places the health of the institution in dire circumstances.
If ever there was an institution in this country that desperately needs to live up to “team work” in every sense of the word, it should be the Electoral Commission.
They organise elections across the length and breadth of the country at the same time. This requires the transportation of logistics all over the country.
These requires that the Commissioners must be in constant touch with each other. As much as possible, their interpersonal relationship should be healthy.
Further, they need to present a common front in their engagement with the political parties (who can be difficult). They are the king makers. No blot should be found on them. They should be able to rise above our communal flaws.
If push comes to shove, we should be able to look at the Electoral Commissioners in the face and swallow the outcome of the elections just because of who the Commissioners are.
From the things that are being thrown about and around, I doubt it.