General News of Monday, 5 February 2018
The committee set up by the Chief Justice to investigate Electoral Commission (EC) Chairperson, Charlotte Osei and her two deputies for abuse of office and conflict of interest will commence official sitting today.
DAILY GUIDE has gathered that both the petitioners and the respondents have filed their witness’ statements, thereby paving the way for the hearing to begin in earnest.
Mrs. Osei had reportedly asked for more time to enable her to file her witness’ statements before the five-member committee being chaired by Justice A.A. Benin of the Supreme Court begins sitting.
Sources say her two deputies – Amadu Sulley, in-charge of Operations and Georgina Opoku-Amankwa, for Corporate Services – who is currently on interdiction, have both filed their responses together with the petitioners as far back as mid-January.
The EC chairperson had reportedly asked for more time to enable her respond appropriately to the issues raised by the petitioners because the notice of the establishment of a prima facie case by the Chief Justice allegedly did not reach her on time.
Sources said Mrs Osei was to submit her statement on January 23, 2018, but upon receipt of a letter indicating that a prima facie case had been established for the investigation to go on, she needed to amend parts of her statement to ensure that she is able to respond to the issues appropriately and in proper context; and had therefore requested for more time per a letter written on January 24, 2018.
According to sources, today’s sitting may dwell on preliminary issues, setting the stage for a full ‘trial’ of the commissioners.
The operations of the EC have been in limbo since the commission had not met for the past one year, contrary to the enabling EC Law which mandates it to meet at least once in every two months.
In effect, Mrs. Charlotte Osei has been operating without her deputies.
On December 19, last year, Chief Justice Sophia A.B. Akuffo officially confirmed that she had set up a committee to investigate allegations brought against the top EC officials.
A statement by the Judicial Secretary, Justice Alex B. Poku-Acheampong, had indicated that proceedings of the five-member committee were going to be held in camera.
“The public is hereby informed that Her Ladyship the Chief Justice, Justice Sophia A.B. Akuffo, in accordance with Article 46 of the 1992 Constitution, has set up a five-member committee to investigate allegations brought against the chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Mrs Charlotte Osei, and her two deputies, Mr. Amadu Sulley and Mrs. Georgina Opoku-Amankwa,” the statement posited.
“The committee, which will sit in camera, in line with normal practice, consists of three Justices of the Superior Court appointed by the Judicial Council and two other persons appointed by the Chief Justice, on the advice of the Council of State. The committee is chaired by a Justice of the Supreme Court,” it indicated.
According to the statement, “The committee was established after the Chief Justice had determined that there was a prima facie case against the three officials of the Electoral Commission.”
The whole action against the EC gurus was triggered by a petition sent to President Akufo-Addo by Lawyer Maxwell Opoku-Agyemang, who was acting on behalf of some unnamed staff of the commission who were seeking to trigger impeachment proceedings against Charlotte Osei under Article 146 of the 1992 Constitution.
A litany of allegations have been leveled against Mrs. Osei, including spending GH¢3.9 million to partitioning of an office, receipt of a Toyota Land Cruiser from the previous government, spending about $14 million 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 other things.
Charlotte Fights Back
Following these, the EC boss, through her lawyers – [email protected] – 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.
She also turned her attention to Amadu Sulley and said apart from transferring votes illegally in the run-up to the 2016 general election, he (Sulley) also pocketed huge amounts of money from some political parties.
“The deputy chairperson in-charge of Operations collected funds above GH¢6m 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,” she 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 have since ensued between the EC boss on one hand and her two deputies on the other.
They are fighting 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 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,” she said.
She also described as “frivolous, useless, fabrications and 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.