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Opinions of Saturday, 30 May 2015

Columnist: Ansong, Richard Amoako

Please call 911 – EC’s boat is sinking!

It was the famous British singer cum songwriter, Ellie Goulding, who released the chart-topping “I’ve got the Midas touch, everything I touch turns to gold” track, and oh, I must confess, I really love that song. But I’m sure if I had Goulding’s voice I would have done a remix for Ghana’s Electoral Commission (EC) because the opposite seems to be its case, as everything the commission touches turns to failure, disappointment and a loss to the public purse.
Indeed, since the Justice Atuguba-led nine-member panel of the Supreme Court subjected the EC’s work to critical scrutiny in the 2012 elections petition, filed by the New Patriotic Party (NPP), everything appears to be going wrong for them. First it was the botched district-level elections which drained the public purse by GHc317 million. I don’t know whether the GHc90 million they requested in addition has been released by the Ministry of Finance yet.
Now, we’re told that the outgoing Chairman of the EC, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, on Tuesday, May 19, 2015, had to issue an executive fiat to suspend the voters’ registration exercise the commission had commenced a week earlier, to enable persons who had turned 18 years old and others who, for one reason or the other, had not registered to do so. According to the EC’s press statement, the suspension was to allow a thorough discussion of the matter with members of the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC). Of course the political parties had descended heavily on the commission in protest against its unilateral decision to kick-start the process on their blindside. Interestingly, this was one of the few occasions that all the political parties were unanimous in their decision to boycott the registration exercise. Hmmm…another financial loss to the state!
Quite understandably, some members of the public have not spared the commission, with some even calling for sanctions and a total overhaul of the current members of the commission. Can you begrudge them? Of course they cannot sit aloof and watch the EC dissipate the nation’s almost-empty coffers by their actions and inactions. But let me ask; is that the way to go? Should we continue to call Dr Afari-Gyan and his commission names? Don’t you think it’s about time we supported the commission to overcome the shortcomings? Please pause for a moment and reflect on these questions!
According to Article 45 of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, the Electoral Commission is mandated to, among other functions, conduct and supervise all public elections and referenda in the country. Given this crucial role the EC plays in our democratic dispensation, the recent happenings should rightly be a source of worry and concern for everybody. Indeed, it should be a wake-up call for everybody to do their part to ensure that the EC is able to get back on track to deliver perfectly on this extremely delicate constitutional obligation.
With the imminent departure of current chair, Dr Afari-Gyan, there will be a change or two at the top, and some have rightly called for broader consultations in the appointment of his successor. Perhaps, recent happenings speak volumes of the fact that calls for broader consultations in appointing the new EC chair are in the right direction. Indeed, public trust and confidence for the EC continue to wane with each passing activity, and it is important they get a chair who wields a lot of clout and is acceptable to all in order to restore public trust and confidence in the commission. One can only hope that the matter currently pending before the Supreme Court, with regard to who has the power to appoint the new chair, will be determined soon, so Ghanaians can welcome their new chair to steer affairs at the EC.
In the interim, those manning affairs at the EC must show leadership by putting in place effective measures to forestall some of the lapses which have characterised its operations in recent times. For a start, they must come out openly to apologise to all Ghanaians and ask for support to overcome some of their challenges. This is a task most institutions, and indeed individuals, find too arduous to accomplish. Admitting one’s mistakes and asking for forgiveness is as rare, in our part of the world, as hair growing on the tongue; but it is definitely the first step towards winning back public trust and confidence.
It is also important IPAC and Parliament show a lot of interest in the commission’s work. They must engage leadership of the EC and map out strategies to assist the commission undertake its constitutional obligations effectively and efficiently. This is so crucial, and no effort should be spared in bringing this to fruition. This should not be misconstrued to mean interference in the work of the EC; it is a means of ensuring the EC gets back on track and delivers to the satisfaction of all.
In the meantime, I call on all civil society organisations and all Ghanaians to do their part to support the EC overcome the challenges which have dogged its operations. The current atmosphere of peace we continue to enjoy hinges on the effectiveness of the EC. We dare not sit and watch the EC fail; let’s put our shoulders to the wheel and support the commission, as failure on their part can breach the peace we currently enjoy!

By: Richard Amoako Ansong

(The writer is a public relations and communications professional)