The actions of Electoral Commission Chair Jean Mensa and her deputy commissioners, since President Nana Akufo-Addo ousted then-Chairperson Charlotte Osei, have undermined their independence and neutrality, former President John Mahama has said.
In a lecture on ‘Africa’s strategic priorities and global role’ at Chatham House, London, Mr Mahama said used the Charlotte Osei ouster to demonstrate how African leaders undermine institutions of democracy to entrench their stay in power.
“Africa needs to build stronger institutions to address institutional and political decay”, he said, explaining: “In building stronger institutions, civil society organisations (CSOs) in Africa must also be prioritised”.
On this note, Mr Mahama commended the “many CSOs on our continent that are holding governments accountable”, since, in his view, “compounding the socio-economic malaise on the continent, is the erosion of public confidence in state institutions”.
“Many of these state institutions set up to be independent arbiters and offer appropriate checks and balance on the executive arms of government, have in recent years served more as extensions of the government”, he noted.
“In many cases, as is the case in Ghana, there have been overt efforts by the government to weaken these institutions and bend them to its will”, Mr Mahama pointed out.
“A case in point was the ouster of the then-Chairperson of Ghana’s Electoral Commission and two other senior officials by the President of Ghana over clearly flimsy and contrived reasons”.
“They were then replaced with persons with noticeable leanings towards the incumbent party and whose actions have served to undermine public confidence in their independence and neutrality, two ingredients which are vital prerequisites for the sustenance of Ghana’s acclaimed democracy”, he indicated.
President Akufo-Addo sacked Mrs Osei and two deputies Amadu Sulley and Georgina Opoku Amankwaa in 2018.
Their removal was based on recommendations from a committee that investigated corruption and misconduct allegations against them.
The president met the three EC officials and handed them their dismissal letters.
Some concerned workers of the Electoral Commission in July 2017 petitioned the president and the Chief Justice to begin impeachment processes against the Mrs Osei.
They accused her of taking unilateral decisions without recourse to the appropriate departments of the EC.
The group also accused the EC Chair of engaging in fraudulent activities, citing, as evidence, her decision to cancel a contract awarded to Superlock Technologies Limited (STL) to supply and manage Biometric Voter Registration machines (BVRs) and the Biometric Voter Devices (BVDs), as well as her directive for the payment of $76,000 to IT firm, Dream Oval.
Following that, a counter-argument ensued between Mrs Osei and her two deputies that portrayed that all was not well between the three topmost commissioners at the EC.
A counter-petition was also filed for the removal of the two other commissioners, Mr Amadu Sulley and Georgina Opoku Amankwaa.
After about a year of investigations, the Chief Justice's committee handed over its report to the presidency.
A statement signed and issued by the then-Minister of Information, Dr Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, said: "The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has, on Thursday, 28 June 2018, removed from office the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Mrs Charlotte Osei, and her two deputies, Mr Amadu Sulley and Ms Georgina Opoku Amankwah, with immediate effect."
"This was after the Committee set up by the Chief Justice, Justice Sophia Akuffo, pursuant to Article 146(4) of the Constitution, to investigate separate complaints brought against the three persons by Ghanaian citizens, recommended their removal from office."
The statement added: "The Committee recommended their removal on the basis of stated misbehaviour and incompetence, pursuant to Article 146(1) of the Constitution."
"The provisions of Article 146(9) of the Constitution require the President of the Republic to act in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee."