The importance of a National Elections Commission (EC) cannot be overemphasized as they embody the legitimacy and credibility of the electoral process, which is directly linked to the integrity of a nation’s democratic credentials.
Ghana’s EC has successfully conducted seven elections which have contributed to the stability and economic growth the country currently enjoys within the sub-region. We have had electoral disputes in the past, but these were managed/ resolved amicably to the envy of other African countries and the world at large.
The current in-fighting amongst the EC commissioners does not bode well for Ghana’s democracy and will dent confidence in their ability to hold credible elections in the future. It started with the petition by some “faceless” Electoral Commission staff against EC Chairperson, Mrs Charlotte Osei, to the office of the President for her possible impeachment. A copy of this was given to Economic of Organized Crime Office (EOCO) for investigations into alleged crime(s) she is purported to have committed.
In the Chairperson’s response to these allegations, she has made serious allegations of corruption against her two deputies; Mr. Amadu Sulley - deputy Chairperson for Operations- for collecting 6 million GHC from political parties for organizing their primaries without following the EC’s due processes, and Mrs. Georgina Opoku-Agyeman - deputy in charge of Corporate Services- for entering into and executing a 40 million contract without the knowledge and authorization of the EC Chairperson among others.
Penplusbytes believes that it is necessary we separate the alleged financial misappropriation from the issues to do with the Chairpersons competency and interpersonal relationships and the general institutional and structural workings of the EC. Was there any money paid to Mr. Sulley either by cash or cheque into his personal account? If this was the case when did the Chairperson discover this? Is it the standard procedure for monies to be paid directly to deputy Commissioners for EC work? Was this allegation reported to any of the anti-corruption state institutions for proper investigation? Is there any contract that has been entered into and executed with the sole approval of Mrs. Opoku-Agyeman? Did she violate any of the EC constitutional provisions by her act? Why did the Chairperson keep this information till now? What are the laid down penalties for such misconducts within the constitutional provision? These are some questions we should consider in unravelling this current situation.
It is evident that this current development can mar the successes chalked by the Electoral Commission in conducting elections for the past 25 years. Financial mistrust within the hierarchy of the Commission can impede the smooth operations of the institution, which was envied across Africa as highly functional. How these allegations are resolved now would inform political parties and the general public’s trust of the EC declared results in the next elections. Penplusbytes, which runs the African Elections Project, believes that public service workers need to set a benchmark for integrity.
Penplusbytes takes a strong stance against what is happening now at the EC. Yes, the due process should be followed in investigating and resolving the issues however, at this stage we are of the opinion that irreparable damage has been done to the credibility of the current EC chairs. Regardless of what the process finds and whatever Alternative Dispute Resolutions (ADR) measures that are used, it is doubtful that the three people, the EC Chair and her two deputies, will be able to work coherently together in the future. We therefore recommend that the EC Chairperson and two deputies do the honorable thing of resigning to save their reputation and that of the institution. We need to protect the sanctity of this state institution so as to keep intact the confidence the good people of Ghana have reposed in the Commission.
Penplusbytes is a not-for-profit organization driving change through innovations in three key areas: using new digital technologies to enable good governance and accountability, new media and innovations, and driving oversight for effective utilisation of mining, oil and gas revenue and resources.