The five-member committee set up by the Chief Justice that recommended the removal of the chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC) Charlotte Osei from office, has said that the sacked boss could not produce any evidence to prove that the new office building she requested from the previous Mahama administration was first discussed among other members of the commission.
There was no document to support allocation of the $30 million building said to be owned by Unibank to the EC except a backdated letter allegedly drafted by the deposed EC boss for the former Chief of Staff, Julius Debrah, to append his signature.
The $30 million building was said to have been acquired for the EC using the Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation (BOST) vehicle to pay for the building.
Unfortunately, no payment was made so the building reverts to its original owner despite the EC spending huge sums of money to partition and refurbish it.
However, she was able to produce evidence indicating that she formally informed the entire commission that then President John Mahama had given the EC a new building to serve as its headquarters even though the other commissioners insisted that there was nothing wrong with the current building they have been occupying for many years.
The five-member committee, chaired by Justice Anthony Alfred Benin, said after being allocated the building located at Ridge in Accra in 2016, the sacked EC Boss went ahead to breach procurement rules in the processes leading to the award of contracts to partition the building.
The committee, whose membership also included Justices Samuel K. Marful-Sau and Justice Agnes Dordzie, both of the Court of Appeal, as well as Welbeck Abra-Appiah, a renowned banker and Rose Karikari-Anang, former Executive Secretary, Ghana Employers Association, said on Page 25 of the 54-page document that “there is no evidence before the committee that the decision for the new office block was first discussed with members of the commission as a body.”
Charlotte Osei justified the request to then President Mahama for a new EC office because she said Ghana had been elected to host the headquarters of the Association of African Election Authorities (AAEA) and on the day of making the request she had gone to the presidency with another member of the commission.
Contract & Consultancy
The committee heard that after securing the building, the EC obtained three proposals from three contractors and three consultants and afterwards, Mrs. Charlotte Osei applied to the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) for approval to procure the services through restricted tender on February 18, 2016, which was duly granted on February 29, 2016.
The estimated amount sought by the EC Boss for the contract, which was approved by the PPA, was GH¢98,100 and the authority specifically “requested the chairperson to seek the current approval from the Tender Review Board as per the value of the intended procurement activity after completion of the tendering process.”
According to the committee, on April 16, 2016, the EC Boss again wrote to the PPA for permission to use restricted tender for the procurement of works for the internal partitioning of the new office block and again listed three companies as the suppliers.
The committee said the EC boss’s letter had quoted GH¢3,410,268.25 as the estimated cost for the partitioning and the PPA, in a letter dated May 6, 2016, granted the request and in so doing even referred to the EC as Ghana Publishing Company Limited in an apparent error, adding “this letter specifically advised that the procurement activity should be done with the current approval of the appropriate Tender Review Board regarding the value of the activity after tendering process.”
However, the committee said on Page 27 that “evidence before the committee revealed that the two contracts for the partitioning of the new office block and the contract for the consultancy service were not put before the Entity Tender Committee as created by the Public Procurement Act and the internal procurement procedures of the EC.”
The contract for partitioning was estimated at GH¢3,410,263.25 but the sacked EC boss ended up awarding it to a private firm called Messrs Inocon at GH¢3,976,244.33.
Similarly, the contract for consultancy was estimated at GH¢98,100, but Mrs. Charlotte Osei ended up awarding it to a private firm called Messrs CPM Africa Ltd at GH¢209,443,75.
“Both contracts by their values were above the threshold of the chairperson so they should have been awarded on the approval of the Entity Tender Committee and the Entity Tender Review Panel,” the report said, adding “the evidence, however, is that the Evaluation Panel addressed its report to the Entity Tender Review Panel, and the chairperson alone without the involvement of the two deputies approved and awarded the said two contracts.”
“The contract approved and awarded by the chairperson to Messrs Inocon Ltd for the partition works of the new office building was unlawful,” adding “again the contract awarded to Messrs CPM Africa Ltd to offer consultancy services for the partition works in the new office block was also unlawful, because the Entity Tender Committee and even the internally created Entity Tender Review Board to which the evaluation reports were referred to, never met to approve the said contracts.”
The committee said the sacked EC Boss in her own testimony had admitted under-cross examination that the Entity Tender Review Panel of the commission never met as a body to review the work of the Tender Evaluation Panel and another witness, who was brought by Mrs. Charlotte Osei also testified that she never saw a report of the Entity Tender Review Panel.
It further said much as it agreed with the contention of Mrs. Charlotte Osei that the PPA Act does not specifically require a report of the actual value of the contract awarded, at least the PPA specifically advised that the procurement activity should be carried out with the concurrent approval of the appropriate Tender Review Board.
“If all heads and entities are allowed to award contracts higher in value than what the estimated amount was agreed to be, without the involvement of the accredited procurement units within public bodies, then the Public Procurement Act would have to be suspended,” it noted.
The committee said the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) Boss when he appeared before the panel even said that “the practice of awarding contracts above the estimated amount is not the best practice.”