The Chief Justice, Sophia Akuffo, has formally constituted a committee to investigate the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Charlotte Osei, and her two deputies, over corruption allegations leveled against them, with a caution to the general public to desist from making demeaning comments about their work.
Already, some members of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), have started criticizing the process, accusing the government of seeking to hound the EC Boss, Charlotte Osei.
The three officials met the Chief Justice a week ago, where they were notified that a prima facie case had been established against them.
“The general public is hereby informed that, Her Ladyship the Chief Justice, Justice Sophia A.B. Akuffo, in accordance with Article 146 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 Opopu-Amankwa.”
In a statement signed by the Judicial Secretary, Justice Alex B. Poku-Acheampong, the Chief Justice said anyone who makes comments that undermine the work of the Committee, will be cited for contempt.
The release, which failed to indicate the names of the Committee members, as well as state exactly when the Committee will start its work, said it will be chaired by a Justice of the Supreme Court.
“The Committee, which will sit in camera, in line with normal practice, consists of three (3) Justices of the Superior Court appointed by the Judicial Council, and two (2) other persons appointed by the Chief Justice, on the advise of the Council of State. The Committee is chaired by a Justice of the Supreme Court.”
“It is the expectation of the Chief Justice and the Judicial Council that the public will treat the Committee with the respect and dignity it deserves, as it carries out its constitutional duty and refrain from making comments that will undermine the work of the Committee, since infractions may amount to contempt.”
Some staff of the EC petitioned President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in July 2017, to remove Mrs. Osei from office over allegations of fraud and financial malfeasance as well as abuse of office.
Some of the allegations involved the unilateral award of contracts by the EC boss in the run-up to the 2016 general election.
The unnamed EC staff are being represented by Lawyer Maxwell Opoku-Agyemang, against Mrs. Osei.
The petition against her, alleged among others the funneling of GH¢3.9 million to partition an office, the receipt of a Toyota Land Cruiser from the Mahama government, and the use of about $14 million when the Public Procurement Authority had authorized her to use only $7.5 million.
Charlotte Osei takes on Deputies
Mrs. Osei also responded by making allegations of corruption against her deputies, claiming that she was only being hounded because she sought to introduce systems to curb misuse and mismanagement of resources.
Charlotte Osei among other claims, accused deputy Chairperson of the Commission of illegally signing contracts worth over GHC 40 million without her approval.
Fresh impeachment against EC Chair
Subsequently, another individual by name Douglas Seidu, a concerned Ghanaian, also petitioned the President in August 2017, seeking the removal of the EC Chair, on grounds of “financial misconduct, incompetence, conflict of interest, breaches of the public procurement processes, amongst others.
It is an eight-paged petition” according to the Director of Communications at the Presidency, Eugene Arhin, who spoke to Citi News in August.
President Akufo-Addo in accordance with the constitution forwarded both petitions to the Chief Justice to look into the matter.
Suggestions are that both petitions have been consolidated to make the Committee’s work easier.
Charlotte Osei could remain in office during corruption probe – Lawyer
Meanwhile, a private legal practitioner, Yaw Oppong, has suggested that Charlotte Osei could remain in her position while the process takes place.
The Chief Justice and the Judicial Council, may now recommend to the President of the Republic, the suspension of the EC Chair from her position, to enable her undergo the hearing.
However, according to Yaw Oppong, unless it is established that her continued stay in office would compromise the investigations, Charlotte Osei could be allowed to remain in her position while she and her deputies are probed.
“In my view, unless it can be seen that the person who is the subject of such an investigation is capable of interfering with the investigation process in terms of suspected cases of concealment of documentary or other forms of information, otherwise I think those persons can still occupy their position,” he said on Eyewitness News.
Yaw Oppong added that, even if the President accepts the recommendation of the Judicial Council and suspends the EC Chair, he could, at any time, reinstate her should he feel the need to do so.
“If the President is of the view that any useful purpose will be served by the person who is the subject of this investigation stepping aside or being suspended in the meantime [he can do so]. But at the same time, Clause 11 says that the President may at any time revoke the suspension under this Article. Perhaps it may be used, but if any purpose may be served by the person being brought back to the position, the President has the power to do so,” he explained.
President not bound by recommendations
Yaw Oppong also suggested that, the President may not be compelled to implement the recommendations of the Judicial Council should they call for the suspension of Charlotte Osei.
Citing a similar case in which the Supreme Court ruled that the President was not bound by the advice of the Council of State, Yaw Oppong stated that, it was however vital that the President is seen to have sought the advice of the Judicial Council on the issue, as stated by the Constitution.
“It doesn’t appear that the President may be bound by the advice [of the Judicial Council]. What it really means is that, there should be evidence that the President at least sought the advise of the Judicial Council. And I think that any prudent President, and so far we’ve had prudent presidents, will act on the advise of the Judicial Council,” he said.
“Unless that president may want to also violate the Constitution, which, so far our President has done well not to. He’s complied essentially with the provisions that have come up for compliance.”