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General News of Thursday, 27 July 2017


EC row: Charlotte Osei sweats in Parliament

The Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC), Charlotte Osei, said in Parliament yesterday that even though she is the chairperson of the EC, she is not the entire commission and has to consult other members on some major decisions she needs to take or say on behalf of the commission.

She made the pronouncement when she was pinned to the wall by the majority leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, after she had told Members of Parliament (MPs) in a Committee of the Whole meeting that the commission was not able to capture an amount of GH¢2,590,080 realised from the replacement of 580,000 lost voter ID cards.

When asked why the commission failed to capture that amount as its Internally Generated Fund (IGF), which had reflected as zero in its 2017 budget, Madam Charlotte Osei said that it was an ‘oversight’ and that she would have to consult the appropriate member of the commission in-charge to rectify it.

She said the money was sitting in the accounts of the commission and that they would need the authority of the Minister of Finance before they could spend it.

There was obvious cold war between the chairperson and one of her deputies, Amadu Sulley, as there was no communication between them, thereby exposing their frosty relationship.

The EC chairperson, who came along with Amadu Sulley, as well as some other directors at the commission, brought to the fore the reality of the raging rift between her and the two deputies.

Conspicuously absent was Georgina Opoku-Amankwa, the other deputy chairperson.

When they were ushered in to take their seats at the clerk’s table before the commencement of the meeting, Amadu Sulley, who is in-charge of operations at the commission, sat far away from his boss until the MPs insisted that he should get close to the chairperson.

When certain questions were asked and she needed the assistance of the deputy chairperson, the consultations were uninviting, with the two obviously finding it difficult to communicate.

“Mr Chairman, I am not the entire commission. I am speaking for myself as the chair and would have to consult my other members on why the commission did not record the amount as its IGF in its budget,” Mrs Osei underscored.

The EC chairperson was urgently dragged to parliament over some agitating questions raised by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for Subin, Eugene Boakye-Antwi, as to how much was realized from the accreditations to 4,271 journalists who applied to cover the 2016 general elections.

The MP also wanted to know how much had been realized from replaced ID cards before the 2016 elections and how those funds had been applied or used by the commission.

The EC chairperson, who came under a barrage of questions, especially from the majority side, was also unable to tell the house how many printers were contracted to do the printing of the accreditation cards for journalists and how the contract was also awarded.

She asked for more time to be able to consult her other officials to enable her provide the accurate answers at a later date.

The EC boss told the MPs that an amount of GH¢42,271 was realized from the issuance of accreditation cards to 4,271 journalists and 273 observers, as well as supporting staff, adding that the total amount paid to the hired printers was GH¢42,713.

According to her, each accredited journalist paid GH¢10 and out of that the printers received GH¢8 each, which was non-taxable, while the commission used the GH¢2 remaining on each of the amount to pay for the VAT and NHIA levy on behalf of the printers.

The accreditation for journalists was not the first time in the history of the EC, and was to assist the journalists to easily have access to the polling station centres and to also observe voting proceedings and the counting as well, which to a large extent, helped to ensure the transparency of the electoral process and made the elections generally violence-free, she explained.

When Mrs Charlotte Osei was asked by the MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa whether it was not possible for the commission to budget for such expenses that would cover accreditation for journalists, the EC chairperson said it would be very difficult to do that since her outfit would not be able to determine the number of journalists, who would make themselves available to cover a particular election.

Inaccurate Figures

The MP for Ablekuma West, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, also raised some pertinent concerns.

She noted that from the figures churned out by the EC as compared to her personal calculations, there were discrepancies.

She said for instance that if the EC says it replaced 580,000 lost cards at a cost of GH¢5 each, then the real amount should have been about GH¢2.9 million and not GH¢2.5 million as given by the chairperson, while the amount realized from the accreditation to journalists would have been GH¢45,440.

In her reply, Madam Charlotte Osei explained that the differences were used for administrative expenses