The survival of the Electoral Commission is dependent on how it’s able to demonstrate leadership in its full-blown internal war.
After successfully pulling off the high-staked 2016 presidential poll, it was thought the Electoral Commission would focus on its strategic plan to drive electoral reforms.
But we thought wrongly.
The EC is at war with itself. It has come under impeachment plots and sub-plots with fatal consequences to its integrity and independence.
The EC boss is against three of her six deputies and they’re in turn against her.
Evidence abounds that tension had been simmering at the Commission before last year’s election was held.
EC boss, Charlotte Osei and the deputy Commissioner in charge of Corporate Services, Georgina Opoku Amankwaah have a reported frosty relationship dating back to 2015. Mrs Osei’s appointment has been unnerving for some people at the Commission.
But the tension tube exploded after Mrs Osei reported her deputy and two other officers to anti-graft agency, the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) on July 4, 2017 over the missing of GHS480,000 from the EC’s Endowment Fund.
Ms Opoku Amankwaah was subsequently interdicted alongside the Commission’s Chief Accountant Kwaku Owusu Agyei-Larbi and Director of Finance Joseph Kwaku Asamoah pending conclusion of EOCO’s investigation.
The EC boss has also come under a plot to have her impeached following a petition that was sent to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. The petition from the so-called ‘Concerned Staff’ of the Commission has triggered an impeachment process that is captured in Article 146 of the 1992 Constitution. Mrs Osei has been accused of having a poor working relationship, insubordination and blatant breaches of the procurement law.
The EC boss in her response to the petition hinted Ms Opoku Amankwaah could be behind the plot to have her impeached. She said the lawyer representing the petitioners, Maxwell Opoku-Agyemang also doubles as the counsel for her deputy who is being investigated.
So why this bad blood at the EC?
The turf war at the Commission started after Mrs Osei was brought from the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) where she served as the head to take charge of the Electoral Commission in June, 2015. Before her appointment as the NCCE boss, she was serving under Ms Opoku Amankwaah who was then a Director. In 2013, then President John Dramani Mahama transferred Ms Opoku Amankwaah to the EC as a deputy.
She served as a deputy Commissioner under former EC boss, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan until his retirement. Ms Opoku Amankwaah was hopeful that after the exit of the EC boss, she would be promoted to takeover. Another deputy Commissioner, Amadu Sule whose presence at the EC outdates all of the two women also thought he would be made the Commissioner.
But former President Mahama had less difficulty when he appointed Mrs Osei over all of them. The action plunged the Commission into an internal wrangling.
Was the sign on the wall?
The Majority leader, Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu said he pointed out the issue to lawmakers as early as March, 2017.
“I made this point on the floor [of Parliament] that, we saw the signals, the signs on the wall were clear because they had appeared before us, the special budget committee. I had asked a simple question, the chairperson was required to be with us … before we begin, may we know the whereabouts of the chairperson [Mrs Osei], is she coming and the first response was that, well we understand she has traveled. I was taken aback so I repeated the question.”
The curiosity of the lawmaker compelled him to question the deputy EC Commissioners one more time.
“Did you hear me? I am asking about the whereabouts of the commissioner and she [Georgina Opoku Amankwah] repeated the same that she gathers this morning that she has traveled.”
In an interaction with the media last Friday, Mr Kyei Mensah said: “Can we have a situation where the commissioner would be travelling out of the jurisdiction without informing any of the deputies, it is bad blood. So I told them in March that they should have a way to resolve the impasse there otherwise it could blow, this is what we are witnessing today.”
He believes “It is their own internal kind of bleeding that we are witnessing, it shouldn’t be because I said to us sometime back as a nation that it may have repercussion on impending elections.”
The full-blown war at the EC has the potency of stalling some electoral reforms captured in the Commission’s strategic plan.
The Majority leader said: “there are matters that they should be doing which they have not initiated any steps to do because of what is happening.”
There are key things the EC is supposed to do before the next elections such as the repair of the biometric equipment and the verification equipment. Some of these machines nearly marred the election especially when they failed to come on. The Commission has to clean up this mess and others before the 2020 elections. It has no time to be salivating over internal wrangling.
The way forward
The solution to the current issues at the EC can be found within. The EC boss must be bold to end the infighting since it affects the integrity of the Commission. All that Ghanaians can do is to make suggestions but the solution rests with the Commission. Any form of interference with the war at the EC could undermine the Commission’s jealous independence protected under the Constitution.
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The writer Austin Brakopowers works as a journalist at Joy99.7FM and could be reached via Brakomen@outlook.com or www.brakopowers.com. Views expressed here are the Author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of management of The Multimedia Group.
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