By Maxwell Ofori
The Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC), Mrs Jean Mensa, has told President Akufo-Addo that she inherited a very weak institution, which lacked financial, procurement, governance, as well as human resource frameworks.
She, however, noted that the new Commission, under her leadership, had engaged the accounting firm, KPMG, to put in place these frameworks to regulate activities at the institution.
Jean Mensa said this when she led six out of the seven commissioners to pay a courtesy call on President Akufo-Addo at Jubilee House, the seat of government, yesterday.
According to her, the meeting with the President was for the Commission to brief him on what she had done a year after assuming office, following the dismissal of Mrs Charlotte Osei and others.
Jean Mensa informed the President that the landmark election petition, which exposed loopholes and brought about reforms, had done some good to the electoral processes, with the reforms being implemented, but swiftly added that the biggest challenge was that the institution itself had been run like nobody’s business.
“… But our biggest challenge is that we (Commissioners) have inherited a very weak institution. It’s an institution that’s not founded on rules; it’s not founded on administrative policies; it doesn’t have [a] governance framework.
“And so, we came into office, and what we found was that we do not have a single policy to guide procurement, to guide finance, to guide Human Resource, to guide administration, nothing exists.
“So, in a nutshell, the Commission has existed as some sort of an election machine, and over the year, we’ve spent a lot of efforts trying to plug the loopholes to the best of our knowledge and to the best of our ability. It has been run as a free-for-all sort of institution till date…,” she added.
$1.2m paid yearly on internet since 2012
Another issue Mrs Jean Mensah spoke about was how a colossal amount of US$1.2 million was paid to STL for internet services at the Data Centre of the Commission.
STL was the company supplying the EC and managing as well, hardware and software.
Her worry was that the country was paying all these monies, but the Data Center was only needed during an election, which is not frequent. Again, she expressed worry over the fact that the country’s database and everything was in the hands of foreign entities.
As a result, the Commission found it necessary to immediately look at the contracts and moved to terminate same.
According to the EC Chair, the recent referendum and voter registration were done with staff of the institution at no cost, unlike previously, when the foreigners would have been paid for that.
She further added that following a court decision permitting the Commission to implement the Representation of People’s Amendment Act (ROPAA), which has been passed by Parliament, the Commission would go to the United States to study how she implemented hers.
I want to win election because of Ghanaians, not EC -Akufo-Addo
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in responding to the remarks by the EC Chairperson, was grateful for the measures taken and being taken by the institution to sanitise the entity. According to him, to have an EC that is partisan or open to manipulation is essentially striking at the heart of the democratic system of the country.
“What the ballot should do is to present an unvarnished verdict of the will of the Ghanaian people. That is what should take place of any well-functioning democracy; that the ballot represents a fair, clear statement of what the wishes of our people are. If there is any interference with that, it is a distortion of the popular will, and that, therefore, means that the democracy that you seek to advance itself becomes questionable,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo stated emphatically to the commissioners that he did not need the EC to win an election, but rather the citizens, who will make a free and open choice that he should lead the nation again.
“I said it to you before, and I will repeat it. I don’t need the Electoral Commission to win an election; I don’t want to win an election in Ghana because of the Electoral Commission. I want to win an election in Ghana because of the people of Ghana; that they make a free and open choice – that Akufo-Addo will be, again, their choice,” he asserted.
The EC Chairperson, in her remarks, suggested a merger of ‘non-active’ political parties.
But, the President said: “I am not so sure that encouraging parties to merge is part of the functions or remit of the Electoral Commission,” adding that “those decisions, I believe, are for the parties; yours is to provide the regulations and the ambit within which the parties can operate.”
The EC is embarking on a series of consultative meetings with stakeholders of the electioneering process. It has recently met former presidents and other stakeholders before meeting President Akufo-Addo.