CDD-GHANA STATEMENT ON CRISIS AT THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION
The Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) has observed with great consternation the unsettling developments at the Electoral Commission of Ghana (EC). We are deeply disturbed by the allegations of impropriety, malfeasance, abuse of power, office and ethics, wanton breaches of the law, misapplication and misappropriation of state funds levelled against the Chairperson, the two Deputy Chairpersons and two directors of the Commission.
These events could not have come at a worse time. The Commission has several outstanding tasks to undertake to help consolidate the electoral integrity gains achieved during the 2016 elections, including publishing the results of that election per polling station and making voter registration possible for eligible citizens on a continuing basis. In addition, the EC could have been prudently focusing its energies on making preparations towards possible referendum/referenda on the constitutional amendments to elect District Chief Executives (DCEs) and the creation of additional regions.
The Center has taken due notice of the fact that petitions have been submitted to the President for the removal of the Chair and the two deputies, which have, in turn, been forwarded it to the Chief Justice, in accordance with Article 146 (3) of the Constitution. We are also aware that, upon the invitation of the EC Chair, the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) is in the process of investigating allegations of fraud relating to misappropriation of the EC Staff Provident Fund against the Deputy Chair for Corporate Affairs and two directors. And we are also cognizant of the fact that all the allegations made against the EC Chair and Deputies have not yet been proven, and may well turn out to be totally untrue.
Indeed, the Center deems these initiatives and measures appropriate and consistent with the requirements of the 1992 Constitution. However, we insist that they are insufficient to address the full range of issues revealed in the initial petition, and counter petitions, particularly because of the alleged serious criminality involved. It is worth noting, for instance, that the ongoing EOCO criminal investigation into matters relating to the EC Staff Provident Fund excludes new allegations of a criminal nature implicating at least the two Deputies; moreover, petitions brought under Article 146 can produce only two remedial actions: suspension and/or removal from office. The Center therefore demands that thorough investigations be conducted to establish the truth or otherwise of these allegations and that the proper course of action is taken against the guilty. And we strongly urge the political parties and their spokespersons to exercise maximum restraint in intervening in and commenting on the matter to prevent these important processes from degenerating into the usual polarized NPP/NDC partisan struggles, which often end up blurring substantive issues.
Indeed, notwithstanding its challenging nature, CDD-Ghana believes that the crisis at the EC presents an important occasion to seek a comprehensive resolution of the Commission’s institutional dysfunctions, instead of suboptimal options. For this reason, we are profoundly opposed to the calls coming from some quarters of Ghanaian society for the adoption of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms involving mediation, patching-up of relations among the key actors, and “ahenfie” settlement/ “palace justice” that may be more appropriate and suitable for civil conflicts and disputes.
The Center recommends that the EOCO mandate currently focused on the EC Staff Provident Fund be expanded to investigate the criminal allegations made so far in the petitions. This is because, whether criminality is established or not, the allegations of impropriety, abuse of power, and wanton breaches of the law and ethics as well as misapplication and misuse of state funds raise serious questions of integrity and sense of judgement on the part of key officers of the Commission. These must be fully addressed to restore public confidence in the EC.
CDD-Ghana also recommends the establishment of an independent committee under the auspices of Parliament in the mode of the EC Election Reform Committee set up in 2015 to review the governance structures and operations of the Commission and make proposals for reform.
The sustenance of an independent and trusted EC is critical for Ghana’s democratic stability. A lot of work will be needed to rebuild the trust of Ghanaians in the EC even if stakeholders are able to resolve the current problems of the EC. It is our fervent hope that we seize the opportunity to secure our young democracy.
God Bless the Electoral Commission of Ghana; God Bless Ghana!!
Dated: August 4, 2017.
Mina Okuru, Communications Officer