EC Chairperson finally releases her response to petition vying for her dismissal

EC Chairperson finally releases her response to petition vying for her dismissal

- EC Chairperson has finally responded to claims made against her in a petition filed to the President

- She has denied all allegations levelled against her

Chairperson of the Ghana Electoral Commission (EC), Madam Charlotte Osei, has finally made public her response to a petition made the president asking for her official removal from office.

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EC Chairperson finally releases her response to petition vying for her dismissal

EC Chairperson, Madam Charlotte Osei

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Follow reports that members of her staff had filed a petition against her, Madam Charlotte Osei, released a statement saying that she already put together her response to the petition against her.

Nevertheless, the EC boss stated that she would refrain from making her response public up until she was officially informed by the Presidency of a petition being lodged against her. This simply due to the fact that it was President Nana Akuffo Add0 that had been petitioned to remove Madam Osei from her position as the captain of the Electoral Commission.

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According to the EC boss, this is a show of respect to the President, of whom she has great respect for.

I understand from the media that the Presidency has received the alleged petition. I have my full responses ready for each and every allegation made in the so-called petition. However, in deference to His Excellency the President of the Republic, for whom I have the highest levels of respect, I would respectfully wait to be formally informed by the Presidency before I make my responses public,” she said in her press release.

EC Chairperson's response to petition allegations

In her response to the 27 accusations leveled against her, Madam Charlotte Osei categorically refutes all claims made against her. According to the fourth claim made against her, Madam Osei almost plunged Ghana "into civil war" during last year's December General Elections had it not been for the "competent staff of the commission".

But in her response, Madam Osei asks how exactly this would have occurred, and states that during the elections she was constantly in touch with both major candidates, the military, and the Ghana Police Service hierarchy.

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Response 1: Ghana Reinsurance is a limited liability company with shares held by the government of Ghana. A non-executive director position is not a “public office” in the context of Article 44(4) which my esteemed counsel should well know.

Response 2: The appointment to the office of Chairperson of the Electoral Commission took effect on June 30, 2015. Resignation as Chairperson of the NCCE pre-dated the swearing in on June 30, 2015. The Chairperson therefore cannot be accused of holding two public positions simultaneously. She certainly did not receive two salaries for the month of June 2015.

Response 3: Mrs. Osei does not use a vehicle with the said registration number WR2291-15. Following her appointment as Chairperson, the Office of the Chief of Staff allocated Mrs. Osei a vehicle. This is certainly not a new practice in Ghana’s public service. Indeed, the office of the Chief of Staff provided and continues to provide vehicles for many government institutions and appointees. The Chairperson could therefore not have compromised her independence or neutrality as she neither requested nor lobbied for the said vehicle. Indeed, this flawed argument would imply that the Commission receiving money from the Government of Ghana compromises the neutrality of the Commission.

Response 4: The petitioners would have to define clearly the “political posture” which nearly pushed the country to civil war. It is a witnessed fact that during the election, the Chairperson was in touch directly with the two main candidates in the presidential election in her capacity as Returning Officer. The then candidates are in a position to confirm this. The Chairperson remained in continuous contact with the hierarchy of the Ghana Police Service and the Military until the final declaration of results to ensure a peaceful conclusion to the election. It is well documented by several observer bodies that the December 2016 elections were safe, free and fair and the Chairperson is directly acknowledged as having been instrumental in ensuring this. As testament to her work, she has received local and international commendation and recognition.

As an allegation supporting an impeachment process, this would be the first time that posture, that ‘could have’ had a certain effect but did not, would be a supporting ground for a constitutional impeachment process.

Response 5: Sory@ Law was retained on the basis of a decision of the Commission taken at a Commission meeting of September 2015. If there has been any breach in the procurement process, then the entire Commission must be held responsible. It was made clear at the meeting that fees for litigation related work cannot be agreed ahead as it would depend on the complexity of each case and the court where a case was filed. For instance, Supreme Court cases are usually billed higher than cases conducted at the High Court. It was therefore the function of the Chairperson to refer all incoming lawsuits to Sory@Law on the basis of the Commission’s decision. It was the function of the Deputy Chairperson CS to negotiate the fees for each matter referred with Sory@Law. Indeed, the same Deputy Chairperson CS has previously failed to negotiate fees with previous counsel retained by the Commission or ensure that they are paid for legal work done. Some of these payments remain outstanding four years after services have been rendered.

If it is true that the Chairperson unilaterally retained Sory@Law, members of the Commission including the two Deputy Chairpersons would clearly have to explain the basis for meetings held between the entire Commission and Lawyer T. Sory, and other meetings between management and executive management staff, and staff of Sory@Law to discuss pending cases.

The petitioners may not be staff of the Commission as they claim and so may not be privy to the fact that on November 16, 206, Sory@Law wrote to the Commission providing a fee quote for its services and offering a flat rate fee for High Court cases and Supreme Court cases which was accepted. The said letter is attached hereto and marked ‘CO5A’. Further, any payments made to Sory@Law have been effected by the Director Finance under the supervision of the Deputy Chairperson CS. If the petitioners have no knowledge of the arrangements with Sory@Law, one wonders the basis for payments made to Sory@Law without the approval or knowledge of the Chairperson. The petitioners in the interest of fairness and transparency, may wish to present the agreement between the Commission and its previous legal counsel, specifying the scope of services and agreed fees a. In which case, it would be helpful to explain why the Commission as at the date of the alleged petition, has been unable to pay its lawyers for the 2013 Presidential election petition.

Response 6: The two Deputy Chairpersons signed 2 contracts with STL on 6 May 2015 for US$22.3m (BVR) and US$16.4m (BVD) respectively (copies attached and marked ‘CO6A’). Letters were written to PPA on 15 May 2015 (copies attached and marked ‘CO6B’) seeking permission for sole sourcing AFTER the contracts had been signed. The contracts contained no price break down and were signed against the 2016 budget of the Commission, which was unknown at the time. The finance and procurement departments of the Commission had no knowledge of the execution of the contracts (Please see ‘CO6C’ attached). The Chairperson informed the Deputy Chairpersons of the many breaches of law in connection with these contracts. The Deputy Chair Operations confirmed the illegalities in an email and also confessed his lack of knowledge of procurement processes (please see ‘CO6D’ attached). The Chairperson abrogated the contracts in August 2015 (please see ‘CO6E’ attached) and requested the Finance department to re-negotiate with STL and rectify the contract award process. Upon receipt of the consent of the PPA to sole sourcing, she engaged consultants to advise the Commission on the real needs of the Commission regarding the BVR contract and review the proposals submitted by STL. The Consultants confirmed that the Commission should spend a maximum of US$7.2m (attached as ‘CO6F’). This resulted in STL submitting a new proposal for the services at a quote of US$7.2m (attached as ‘CO6G’)

Interestingly, STL has not complained about the abrogation of the contracts. It is amazing that persons, who schemed to cause loss to the state, flout procurement laws with impunity, can then accuse another of acting illegally. When the first contracts were signed, no one in the Commission was involved in the negotiations. Quite surprisingly, it is now alleged that their involvement would have resulted in better pricing for the Commission. Was the Chairperson to seek the input of the same deputies who had admitted lack of knowledge in procurement matters and who had earlier failed to follow procurement laws and hastily signed such major contracts?

Response 7: It is untrue that the 7 members of the Commission do not see anything wrong with the current offices. Commission members have constantly complained to the Chairperson about leaking and damaged roofs, poor electrical wiring, damp walls and lack of storage facilities to store elections equipment resulting in significant losses and inefficient use of resources at the Commission.

The Chairperson informed the Commission in late 2015 that the Commission had requested new office premises from the Presidency to house the new secretariat of the Association of African Election Authorities (AAEA) after Ghana had been voted as a permanent secretariat of the AAEA in July 2015 with responsibility to provide office space for the AAEA. In February 2016, at a Commission meeting members were informed that Government had allocated a new office building to the Commission through the office of the Chief of Staff. Members were further informed that the new office was a new building and would only require partitioning and all commissioners were encouraged to visit the new premises. The Chairperson subsequently visited the new site with the two Deputy Chairpersons and a commission member, all of who were very excited by the new office. The Chairperson has no control over the office of the Chief of Staff or the Presidency and clearly cannot obtain the permission of the Commission if a new office is allocated to the Commission. The current offices have major structural defects, significant parts of the roof are collapsing, significant leakages in most offices, damp and mouldy walls, electrical defects have been discovered and pointed out by the Fire Service for urgent attention (please see ‘CO7A’ attached), the building lacks disability access, is decrepit and outdated, requiring extensive work and expense to make it habitable and reflective of the office of the Electoral Commission. The building houses precious lives of staff of the Commission and sensitive national assets such as the largest database of Ghanaians currently in the country. The current office space is not suitable by any standards.

With regard to the contract for partitioning of the 8-floor office building, the procurement laws were scrupulously followed. A copy of the Tender evaluation report is attached and marked ‘CO7B’. The scope of the contract included glazed aluminum partitions for all 8 floors, plumbing and sanitary installations, ventilation/air conditioning installations, electrical installations, servicing of the lifts, demolitions, masonry works and painting amongst others. Directors of the Commission at the head office (Finance, HR, IT and Electoral Services), and an external consultant were members of the evaluation panel. The Chairperson of the Commission was not a member of the tender evaluation panel. The bid submitted by Inocon Limited was the lowest of the three bids and was recommended to the Chairperson for approval.

The Chairperson of the Commission is not and has never been a member of the tender evaluation committee and cannot therefore; influence the award of the contract. Indeed, Mrs. Osei was not even present in the ETC meeting where tenders were opened for the partitioning contract (please see document marked ‘CO7C’). The Chairperson is the only one authorised by the policies of the Commission to sign contracts (copy of policy attached and marked ‘CO7D’). In any case, for the said contract that is allegedly unknown to the Commission, payment was approved and paid by the Deputy Chairperson CS without the knowledge and authorization of the Chairperson.

There is no requirement in law or in policy, for the Chairperson to seek the approval of the Commission for the execution of any contracts. Evidence of any law or policy requiring this approval should as a matter of law, be presented by the petitioners.

An investigation into the processes for award of the contract and a value for money assessment would be welcome as it would be based on law and policies and not motivated by ill will and pettiness.

Response 8: A contract was awarded for the construction of 100 district offices to Messrs Clicotech and Messrs. Cads Contracts & Services on a 58-42 basis. Although Messrs Cads Contracts was the only company that met all the criteria at the Entity Tender Committee level (please see document marked ‘CO8A’), the tender evaluation committee recommended that they be awarded 42% of the contract for stated reasons. The Chairperson followed in total, the recommendations of the evaluation panel (copy attached and marked ‘CO8B’) in awarding the contract. In following the recommendation, there was clearly no wrongdoing or alleged cronyism by the Chairperson. If the Chairperson intended to award the contract to Cads Contracts based on cronyism, then the same Chairperson would not have given Clicotech Limited an extended time (with consent of the other bidders) to submit its audited accounts, VAT and tax clearance certificates to enable it meet the tender requirements. Mrs. Osei has no relative at Cads Contracts Ltd.

If the contract sums were in excess of the thresholds approved by the PPA, it begs the question why these issues were not pointed out in the report of the tender evaluation panel, why the Deputy Chairpersons as member so the Review Panel did not point this out and why the Deputy Chairperson CS would approve the payments to Clicotech and Cads Contracts (same contracts, issued through same process) and ensure that payments on the contracts were effected without the approval of the Chairperson and with no notice to her.

In Addition, the consultant engaged by the Commission has been actively involved in the management of the contract. He has visited all the project sites, written to confirm work done by both contractors and to endorse the certificates raised by both contractors. The consultant has not raised any issues of impropriety or poor performance on the contract. Indeed, the consultant has recently written a letter to the Chairperson reminding her of the need to honour payment obligations to the contractors as per the terms of the contract. Incidentally, on these same contracts, mobilization payments were made to both contractors in December 2016, without the knowledge and approval of the Chairperson. These are matters of grave financial impropriety that require further investigation. The Chairperson has no issues with the Director of Finance and staff at the EC head office can testify to this. In matters of contracts, it is important that an institution such as the EC follows the instructions of its retained consultant in management of the contract to avoid breaches of contractual terms rather than sentiments based on mischief and ill will.

Response 9: The Chairperson has NOT submitted a petition to EOCO on the Endowment Fund issue. However, the Chairperson believes that EOCO is the right institution being a fact finding body, to investigate the issue of what the endowment fund contributions of staff, which were not paid into the Fund for eight months in 2014 were used for. This matter has been before the Commission since February 2015 and has not been resolved. A memo sent by the Chairperson on December 1, 2015 on the issue has not been responded to as of today (please see ‘CO9A’ attached). The vouchers indicating the application of the Funds have not been submitted despite repeated requests by the Chairperson and repeated claims by the deputy Chairpersons of their availability. The Commission cannot by itself, use 2017 funds released by the Ministry of Finance, to repay obligations incurred in 2014, with no documentation and not recorded in the audit report of 2014 as an outstanding obligation, without the report of a separate institution like EOCO. If there has been any embarrassment to the Commission, it is based on the failure to keep proper accounting records in the matter and the wrongful utilization of monies belonging rightfully to the staff endowment fund. If the unknown petitioners are actually ‘concerned staff’ of the EC, the resolution of this matter should be of utmost importance.

Response 10: The Chairperson and the Commission did not require the permission of the Ministry of Finance to utilize funds agreed with the USAID in the manner agreed by USAID in the Funding contract. All expenditure of donor funds is carried out in line with the policies of the donor agency. The petitioners would have to provide further proof of this requirement and show how in disbursement of other donor funds the Commission has sought the permission of the Ministry of Finance. The Chairperson followed the rules of the funding agency to the letter. The Chairperson does not need the approval of the Commission to appoint temporary staff and consultants deemed necessary and agreed in the Grant letter. Indeed, as part of the basket of donor support provided to the Commission for the election, it was agreed by donor partners that the Commission would require a communications consultant and that a personal assistant should be recruited for the Chairperson to support with managing the heavy workload of the election year.

Response 11: The petitioners would have to show the basis for the perception that the district electoral officers transferred were pro-NPP. Is the allegation that only staff who are pro other parties should be made to work in ‘deprived areas’? How are these ‘deprived areas’ defined? It would be helpful for the petitioners, if they exist, to show what action was taken and should have been taken against district electoral officers performing key functions and showing party biases as they allege. These officers were transferred because of threats made by political actors on their activities, which were likely to compromise the neutrality of the commission and the integrity of the elections. It is within the powers of the Chairperson to transfer district electoral officer either for purposes of protecting the lives of staff or as the exigencies of the Commission’s work requires.

Response 12: This is palpably untrue. Indeed, the Chairperson assumed office in a very politically polarized environment and has worked very hard with staff, staff associations and unions to create a healthier work environment. The petitioners must present evidence to support this allegation.

Response 13: Mrs. Osei is on speaking terms with everyone at the Commission. The Deputy Chairpersons have chosen to be grossly insubordinate and rude and there is ample documented evidence to support this. Deputies take managerial decisions and implement same without the knowledge of the Chairperson; threaten staff that have direct dealings with the Chairperson; take their leave without the approval of the Chairperson and implement major administrative and operational decisions without the knowledge of the Chairperson. It would be helpful for our fictitious petitioners to provide evidence to the contrary. There is only a breakdown of the structures for maladministration and illegal financial dealings and not the administrative structures of the Commission as claimed by the fictitious petitioners.

Response 14: It is surprising that the ‘concerned staff” are also spokesperson for the NPP with seeming intimate knowledge of the grievances of the NPP. However, contrary to the impressions of the petitioners, the leadership of the NPP is in a position to confirm several meetings held with Mrs. Osei to discuss their concerns ahead of the 2016 elections. Indeed, in one of those meetings with the two Deputy Chairpersons, it was confirmed that the Deputy Chairperson Operations had unilaterally and without the knowledge of the Chairperson or the Commission created over 1000 (one thousand) additional polling stations for the district level elections of September 1, 2015.

Mrs. Osei has NEVER attended a cabinet meeting and shown absolutely no patronage to the NDC. This is the most infantile of allegation as surely, records are available of attendance at Cabinet meetings at the Presidency. The petitioners would be compelled to provide evidence in support of these allegations.

Response 15: The Chairperson does not report to the two deputies. These are deputies who constantly show insubordination, do not come to work or come to work when they feel like, go on leave and travel without the knowledge and approval of the Chairperson. They clearly do not respect their office or their role within the organisation. Corporate governance procedures are clearly disregarded in their operational behavior.

As a ground for impeachment, it would also be proper for the Deputy Chairpersons to be impeached for all the times they have taken unauthorized leaves and travelled within and outside the jurisdiction, without the approval of the Chairperson.

Response 16: The BBC interview transcripts are available and would show that Mrs. Osei never made any comments that showed a personal vendetta against Messrs. Buck Press or mentioned his party affiliation which is unknown to her. The petitioners would be required to provide documentary evidence of these allegations.

Messrs Buck Press was awarded 2 contracts by the Commission in 2016; 1 contract in 2015; 2 contracts in 2014; 1 contract in 2013; and 2 contracts in 2012. Messrs Buck Press was one of four companies who put in a tender for the printing and supply of carbonised forms. The contract was awarded to Aerovote Ghana on the basis of the recommendations of the Tender Evaluation committee report submitted to the Chairperson (copy attached and marked ‘CO16A’).

The Chairperson is NOT a member of the tender evaluation committee. The tender evaluation committee was chaired by the director of finance and included the Directors of HR, IT and Electoral Services at the Commission. There is no record of the evaluation committee recommending that the contract should be awarded to Buck Press and that the Chairperson flouted such recommendation. Further, the Chairperson was informed by the evaluation committee that Aerovote was the only company that met the security and form personalization requirements and with the capacity to print the carbonized forms IN GHANA. Consequently, for the first time in our electoral history, political party representatives could monitor the process of printing of carbonized forms that led to higher levels of transparency and the integrity of our electoral process. The Chairperson has no personal issue against Messrs. Buck Press. The Commission has maintained the same seven main printers it has always done business with and the Chairperson maintains a cordial relationship with all the printing companies.

Response 17: The Chairperson has always shown the highest levels of respect and admiration for her predecessor and she maintains a very warm relationship with Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan and his family. Indeed, in most interviews she has granted, she has always paid tribute to the excellent legacy left by her predecessor particularly in the area of putting in place structures that support and enhance credible and transparent elections. In any case, assuming without admitting that this allegation was true, how does this become a ground for impeachment of the Chairperson of the EC under the 1992 Constitution of Ghana?

Response 18: The contract with Dream Oval was funded by the USAID and awarded in line with USAID procurement policies. The USAID has not complained of any breaches of policies and has agreed to pay the additional costs necessitated by the additional security infrastructure that Dream Oval had to put in place for the Commission’s website. There has been no breach of any law or policy put in place by USAID with regard to this matter. This is therefore, another baseless allegation founded on mischievous imaginations.

Response 19: It is patently untrue that the chairperson refused to meet President Mbeki and the National Peace Council. The Peace Council came on an unscheduled visit to the office at a time the Chairperson was away from the office. There were subsequent conversations and meetings with the Chair of the National Peace Council, which the Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Asante can confirm.

The Chairperson met President Thabo Mbeki on December 1, 2016 at the Movenpick Hotel at the request of President Mbeki. There is pictorial evidence of the meeting as posted by president Mbeki on social media (please see attached and marked ‘CO19A’). There were also several phone conversations with President Mbeki before and after the December elections. Indeed, after the elections, President Mbeki called personally to congratulate the Chairperson on her warmth, hard work, exemplary leadership and excellent organization of the elections. It would be most helpful for the petitioners to establish basic facts available as matters of public record in their quest to vilify the Chairperson.

Response 20: The Chairperson’s managerial competence is evident from her career track record and the reports of local and international election observer missions as well as the commendations from regional directors and senior staff of the EC on the organization of the 2016 elections. Her competence is also shown by many positive changes at the Commission since the tenure of the current Chairperson.

The Chairperson will deal directly with directors when a Deputy spends half of the working week outside of Accra, particularly in a busy election year when decisions have to be taken quickly. The Chairperson has attempted to put in place structures at the Commission to ensure that the Commission is managed in an efficient manner. The Commission has no disciplinary committee or effective disciplinary processes, no audit review committee or processes, no structured management meetings, and no clear financial and administrative procedures and manuals. This is unpardonable.

Financial statements and bank statements are not submitted to the Chairperson or the Commission. Budgets and audit queries are not formally presented to the Chairperson or the Commission. Approvals and payments are made on the blind side of the chairperson and in excess of approved limits. The attempts by the Chairperson to ensure proper structures and financial management systems have led to disputes with the deputy Chairpersons and staff who benefit financially and illegally from the chaos. The Chairperson refuses to superintend a system that engenders endemic corruption and poor administrative structures.

It should be noted that all these actions amounting to financial malfeasance and impropriety would be documented and submitted to the requisite authority for investigations.

Response 21: The Chairperson has a warm and friendly relationship with all staff and maintains an open door policy. The Chairperson only has difficulties with staff that do not want to see the progress of the Commission and want to continue to preserve their illegal commercial kingdoms for personal gain within the Commission.

In 2015, attempts by the Chairperson to stop district electoral officers from inserting ghost names on the list of officials recruited for the 2015 district level elections, to enable them appropriate the allowances for the officials resulted in the Chairperson being reported to the BNI for investigation. In the report attached hereto dated September 23, 2015 and marked ‘CO21A’, staff, according to the BNI, admit to a culture of misappropriation of funds meant for electoral staff, and assert that this practice is a ‘convention’ at the Commission.

A work culture that permits some staff to steal with such boldness is extremely unfortunate and cannot be allowed to continue.

Response 22: The estimate for renovation of a house indicates the level of work required to be done in the house. It is not a contract and there is no breach of the law occasioned by submitting an estimate. It is in fact the Deputy Chair Operations that is in breach of process reflected in his actions in 2015 when without recourse to the Chairperson, the Deputy Chair Operations verbally authorized a Director to undertake repairs to the Chairman’s official residence for the use of the said Director.

Upon submission of the estimate of works done, it would have been expected that the Deputy Chair CS who oversees administration, would have started a proper procurement process for the renovation of the Chairperson’s residence. To date, no work has been initiated and the Chairperson is still unable to move into the official residence two years after appointment. In the same vein, the Chairperson was never provided with an office three months after joining the Commission. She had to initiate the moves herself to get suitable office premises and furnish it personally.

Response 23: The Chairperson’s headship of the Commission’s Entity Tender Committee (ETC) is in line with the law, commission policy and was a decision taken at a Commission meeting after its review of the UNDP commissioned assessment report on the EC. That report highlighted major breaches of procurement law and poor procurement and financial management regime at the Commission prior to the appointment of the Chairperson. To establish conflict of interest, it needs to be shown exactly what actions the Chairperson has taken in her capacity as head of the ETC which show that her personal interest have conflicted with her official position. The fictitious petitioners have failed to establish this.

Response 24: The Chairperson has visited as many offices as time constraints in a busy election year would permit. As with all large organizations, the Chairperson in her leadership is required to prioritize major issues around clear priorities within the Commission. At the time of the appointment of the Chairperson, the strategic and organizational priorities did not allow for significant local travel to the regions. Security has never been a cited reason for the failure to travel and proof of this would be requested from the petitioners. As with all large organisations, the Chairperson is required to allow the responsible leadership to keep her informed of the needs of the organisation whilst she may not personally be able to visit every office – it is with this knowledge of the deplorable state of district and regional offices, and in some cases, no district offices at all, that the Chairperson commissioned the construction of 100 district offices due to be completed this year.

In the Chairperson’s short tenure of 24 months at the Commission, she has supervised the conduct of two national elections and 4 by-elections and undertaken significant travel related to Commission work and AAEA obligations. Whilst the Chairperson regrets not being in a position to visit each and every station and district office, the nature of constraints of time and organisation priorities she has been unable to do so – however it is clearly the responsibility of the Deputy Chairperson of Operations to do so.

The Chairperson has visited the offices of her deputies. In any case, it is baffling why this issue should be of major concern to the ‘concerned staff” of the Commission, and be elevated to an impeachable offence and of greater importance to staff than the security of their retirement funds and their general well being.

READ ALSO: Hannah Tetteh debunks claims that Charlotte Osei attended NDC cabinet meeting

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