Politics of Thu, 8 Jan 20042

Government is not controlling EC - Akomea

Government on Thursday debunked claims that it was trying to manipulate certain changes at the Electoral Commission (EC) by replacing the Commissioners.

At a press briefing in Accra, Nana Akomea, Minister of Information, described the picture that was being painted as unfortunate. "The attempt to give the impressions that the Government is seeking to control the EC, by these due appointments, is very unfortunate and should be disregarded."

Nana Akomea explained that four vacancies have arisen because of the death of Dr M. T. K. Puni, a private medical practitioner at Akim Oda in 1995, and the age of Mrs Theresa Cole, Madam Elizabeth Solomon and Professor Ernest Dumor, who have all passed their 60th birthdays and "by the terms and conditions in law, as outlined in Act 451 of 1993 are due for retirement and replacement."

The Minister said Prof Dumor, turned 60 in August 2003 and has written to notify the President and to express gratitude for the chance to serve the nation.

"Likewise, Madam Solomon wrote to the Office of the President to request that owing to the forthcoming 2004 General Election, members of the Commission whose retirements are due, should be permitted to stay in office for another year till after the elections."

Nana Akomea said despite this, "it is the President's legitimate exercise to fill the vacancies that have arisen".

Outlining the historical antecedent of the EC, Nana Akomea said the PNDC government appointed Commissioners to form the then Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in 1992, with the duty of conducting and supervising the 1992 General Election.

"But after the elections, the 1992 Constitution came into effect and Article 43(1) of the Constitution provided for the establishment of the EC, composed of a chairman, two deputies and four members and the seven members of the Commission were appointed by the President acting on the advice of the Council of State.

"Article 43 (2) and (3) of the Constitution provides that the Chairman shall have the same terms and conditions of service as Justice of the Court of Appeal, while the two deputy Chairmen have the same terms as applicable to a Justice of the High Court.

"With regard to the other four members, Article 43 (5) provides that they be paid such allowances as Parliament may determine."

Nana Akomea said the same Constitution provided that the retiring age applicable to Justices of the Appeal Court is 70, and the retiring age of a Justice of the High Court 65, while that of a Judge of the Circuit Court is 60.

On Dr Afari Djan proceeding on an annual leave, the Minister said he was due for leave between December 4, 2003 and January 4, 2004.

"The letter was written on December 4, 2003, the very day the EC Chairman intended to start his leave.

"Government, therefore, has no hand in the matter when the Chairman of the EC goes on leave and it is, therefore, a wicked twist for anyone to put into the public domain statements that government was forcing the EC Chairman to go on leave," Nana Akomea said.

He said it was also not true that the Government was trying to control the EC through its auditing programme.

He said the Auditor-General and Audit Service have the mandate to audit all institutions, which subsisted on the Consolidated Fund of Ghana, including the internally generated funds of those institutions.

Nana Akomea said: "The attempt to accuse Government of some ill-will or complicity in this matter is, therefore, totally unjustified and wicked.

"Government assures all that as the first Government in history to win elections against a contesting incumbent, President Kufuor's Government is totally committed to the integrity of the electoral process", he said.

Full text of statement

Ladies and Gentlemen,
in the past few weeks, matters involving government and the operations of the Electoral Commission have featured quite prominently in media and public discussions.

One current issue has been that, in a bid to unduly influence the EC’s work, government is bent on retiring some Commissioners of the EC and replacing them with new Commissioners.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this picture that is being painted is unfortunate.

Ladies and Gentlemen, before the general elections in 1992, the PNDC government passed the Interim National Electoral Commission Law (PNDC Law 271). The PNDC government then proceeded to appoint Commissioners to form the INEC, with the duty of conducting and supervising the 1992 general elections.

After the elections, the 1992 Constitution came into effect.

Article 43 (1) of the Constitution provided for the establishment of the EC, composed of a Chairman, two deputies and four members.

On the appointment of the Electoral Commissioners, article 43{2} of the Constitution provides that all the seven members of the Commission shall be appointed by the President, acting on the advice of the Council of State.

On their conditions of service, article 43{2} and {3} provides that the Chairman of the Commission shall have the same terms and conditions of service as a Justice of the Court of Appeal, while the two deputy Chairmen have the same terms as applicable to a Justice of the High Court.

With regard to the other four members, article 43{5} provides that they shall be paid such allowances as Parliament may determine.

Ladies and Gentlemen, in 1998, Parliament, in its wisdom, prescribed that the four other commissioners shall enjoy:-

1. the full starting pay of a Circuit Court Judge and
2. All allowances of a Circuit Court Judge .

In effect therefore, Ladies and Gentlemen, for the terms and conditions for the seven Electoral commissioners, we have the Chairman being equated to a Justice of the Appeals Court, the two deputy commissioners being equated to Justices of the High Court and the four other Commissioners equated to Judges at the Circuit Court.

The retiring age applicable to Justices of the Appeal Court is 70, the retiring age of a Justice of the High Court is 65, while a judge of the Circuit court retires at 60.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a summary of the circumstances and law on the appointment of the 7 members of the Electoral Commission and their conditions of service.

All these provisions on the appointments and conditions/terms of service of the Electoral Commissioners are also featured in Act 451 of 1993, which actually establishes the EC.
As at 1993, the full membership of the Commission were Mr. Afare Djan as Chairman, Messrs David Kanga and Sarfo Katanka as Deputy Commissioners, and Mrs. Theresa Cole, Madam Elizabeth Solomon, Dr. Puni and Professor Ernest Dumor as the four other Members.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dr. Puni unfortunately died in 1995. Mrs. Cole, Madam Solomon and Professor Dumor have all passed their 60th birthdays and by the terms and conditions in law, as outlined above, they are due for retirement, and replacement.
Indeed Prof. Dumor, who turned 60 in August 2003, has written to notify the President and to express gratitude for the chance given to him to serve.
Another Commissioner, Madam Solomon wrote to the office of the President to request that owing to the pendency of the 2004 general elections members of the Commission whose retirements are due, should be permitted to stay in office for another year, ie until after elections.
Madam Solomon’s request may be fair, but Ladies and Gentlemen, it remains the prerogative of the President to appoint members of the EC when vacancies arise. And four vacancies have arisen as a result of death and age. It is therefore a completely legitimate exercise for the Office of the President to fill the vacancies that have arisen.
The attempt to give the impression that the government is seeking to control the EC by these due appointments is very very unfortunate and should be disregarded.

DR. AFARI DJAN’S LEAVE

Another debate in the public domain is that the government is forcing the Chairman of the EC to take his leave.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the fact of the matter is that the EC, in a letter dated 4 December 2003, and signed by its Director of Administration, sought permission from the Chief of Staff for the Chairman of the Commission to take a short leave from 4 December 2003 to 4 January 2004. The letter also stated that the two Deputy Chairmen of the Commission will act in the Chairman’s absence.
The EC deals with the executive branch of government through the office of the President. Such a letter to the office of the President is for information and courtesy purposes only. Indeed the letter was written on 4th December, the very day the EC’s Chairman’s intended to start his leave.
Government has no hand in the matter of when the Chairman of the EC goes on leave.
It is therefore a wicked twist for anyone to put into the public domain that government has forced the EC to go on leave.

AUDITING OF THE COMMISION

Ladies and Gentlemen, yet another matter in which an attempt is being made to portray government as seeking to control the EC is the mater of auditing of the EC.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Auditor General and Audit Service has the mandate to audit all institutions which subsist on the consolidated fund of Ghana, including Internally Generated Funds of these institutions.
Indeed section 11 of the Act 451 which set up the EC, provides that “The Commission shall keep proper books of accounts and proper records in relation to them and the records of the Commission shall be in a form approved by the Auditor-General”.
Section 12 then provides explicitly that “The books and accounts of the Commission shall be audited annually by the Auditor-General or by an auditor appointed by him”. The AG is therefore totally within his rights to audit the EC.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the attempt to accuse government of some ill-will or complicity in this matter is therefore totally unjustified and wicked.
It would seem Ladies and Gentlemen, that the attempt to smear government at every turn seems to be a deliberate political strategy, which all of us should see through.
Government wishes to assure all persons that as the first government in the history of this country to win elections against a contesting incumbent government, President Kufour’s government is totally committed to the integrity of the electoral process.
Thank you.


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