The committee set up to investigate the former Electoral Commission (EC) Chairperson, Charlotte Osei, has made mind-blowing findings about how the sacked EC boss brazenly cancelled contracts and re-awarded them without following basic procurement rules.
There were 12 components involved in the said contract worth around $22 million that she unilaterally awarded to the SuperTech Ltd after she had abrogated an initial contract with the same private company signed by her deputy in-charge of Corporate Services, Georgina Opoku-Amankwah, who has also been sacked.
The STL contracts form part of six allegations investigated by the Chief Justice’s committee presided over by a Supreme Court judge, Justice A.A. Benin, for which Charlotte Osei has been found to have breached procurement rules and has since paid the penalty for it.
It turned out the contracts dully procured under the signature of Mrs. Opoku-Amankwaa with STL Ghana that compelled Mrs. Osei to abrogate unilaterally were worth a total of $41 million in two components and they had been signed before the then EC boss assumed office.
However, in re-awarding the contract at the total cost of $22,340,814 to the same private firm, the committee had found that the sacked EC boss did not follow laid-down procurement rules and declared it illegal.
The committee held “it to be very absurd coming from the Chairperson, the very person who led the crusade to abrogate the initial STL contracts, citing breaches of the Public Procurement Act.”
The committee found that upon her appointment in June 2015, Mrs. Charlotte Osei detected some irregularities with the STL contract, which was yet to be performed and was right to have abrogated it.
However, the committee also found that her decision to unilaterally award fresh contracts to the same STL in the aggregate sum of $22,340,814 was illegal, explaining that she had failed to comply with the internal procurement procedures of the EC created by the commission itself, namely the Entity Tender Review Panel and the Public Procurement Act.
In all, she awarded 12 contracts to STL for the supplies of ICT equipment and services and the committee found that only one out of the 12 did not exceed her procurement threshold as chairperson.
According to the committee, the only component of the contract that did not exceed the procurement threshold was GH¢50,000 for goods and services before July 2016.
It further said that all the letters awarding the 12 contracts to STL were signed by the Chairperson herself between February 8, 2016 and November 25,2016.
The Entity Tender Review Panel consists of the chairperson and her two deputies but the decisions to award the contracts to STL were taken without the inputs of the two and subsequently found the STL contracts awarded by the chairperson as “unlawful, violating Sections 16 and 40 of the Public Procurement Act (Act 914).”
“The chairperson showed sheer incompetence in the manner she handled or conducted the award of new STL contracts, in view of her experience with the initial STL contracts, which were abrogated at her instance,” the committee revealed.
The committee also found that the sacked EC boss had engaged the services of a private law firm Sorry@Law headed by Thaddeus Sory, without recourse to the commission and without any procurement process, and as a result, the commission was being made to pay hefty amounts as services rendered.
According to the committee, although there were no formal contractual arrangements between the EC and the law firm and the basis for computing legal fees, unknown, involving fees of GH¢400,000 came up.
The committee had found that there was no documentary evidence of engagement of the Commission of the services of Sory@Law and also held further that the appointment of Sory@Law was in breach of the Public Procurement Act.
The committee said that she appointed the lawyers through sole sourcing without the approval of the Public Procurement Authority and that the EC boss ‘misbehaved’ with the appointment of Messrs Sory@Law, adding, “The events surrounding the engagement of Messrs Sory@Law as lawyers for the Electoral Commission shows incompetence, ineptitude and dereliction of duty on the part of Mrs. Charlotte Osei and we so find.”
Interestingly, the committee had recommended that though the EC had ceased using the services of Messrs Sory@Law as solicitors, the firm should be paid for its legal services rendered.
The contract for the design of the EC’s website was also held to be illegal since she awarded the contract without recourse to the rules of procurement.
It involved the use of donor support of $76,000 by the USAID grant for the EC’s ICT environment.
The EC boss was also found to have used the donor funds awarded to repackage the strategic plan of the commission, funded by the UNDP and to develop a new logo for the commission and it was in breach of the procurement law.
Prima facie case
In establishing a prima facie case that warranted the setting up of the five-member committee, the report recommending the sacking of the three EC bosses quoted the Chief Justice as saying that “the Public Procurement Act is an enactment which, one may say, is made in pursuance of the principles of probity and accountability expressed in article 37(1) of the Constitution. It envisages that in the procurement of goods and services with public resources, there must be standard practices which are aimed at fairness and value for money so as to strengthen the national economy. It is for this reason, in my view, that the Act is so detailed and specific in the process and procedures it prescribes.”
The committee affirmed that “in all the procurement activities which we had to investigate, the findings have been that Mrs. Charlotte Osei failed to comply with the Public Procurement Act.”
The committee dismissed the defence of Charlotte Osei that issues of procurement was not part of her core functions since she was the same officer writing directly to seek approval from the PPA to do restricted tendering and also wrote as chairperson directly to companies notifying them of contract awards.
“If procurement of goods and services was not part of the core business of the Electoral Commission as argued by Mrs. Charlotte Osei, why did she take over the above roles directly when there was a Procurement Unit with a head in the Electoral Commission?”