Deputy Chairperson in charge of Corporate Services at the Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana, Georgina Opoku Amankwah, has reported to work despite a directive by the Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO) for her to proceed on leave while allegations of the disappearance of GHS480,000 belonging to the election management body are investigated alongside impeachment proceedings being heard by a committee put together by the Chief Justice in connection with petitions filed against her as well as EC Chairperson Charlotte Osei and fellow Deputy Amadu Sulley.
The presence of Mrs Amankwah in office on Monday, 15 January caused a scene as police officers and officials from EOCO stormed the EC to impress upon her to leave office in compliance with EOCO’s directive.
She has been home for the past seven months since the whole issue stormed over.
Despite attempts by EOCO for her to go home, she insisted she would not move until her 5PM closing time was up.
Apart from Mrs Opoku Amankwah, two other EC officials also being investigated in connection with the GHS480,000 are Finance Director Dr Joseph Kwaku Asamoah and Chief Accountant Kwaku Owusu Agyei-Larbi.
Last year, a letter from Mrs Opoku Amankwah’s lawyers, Asante-Krobea Sekyere & Associates, described the EC Chair’s directive to their client, through EOCO, to proceed on leave as unconstitutional.
The letter dated 8 July and signed by Kwame Owusu Sekyere, a lawyer, read: “Your letter dated 5 July 2017 and the attached letter from EOCO dated 4 July 2017 has been referred to us by our client Ms Georgina Opoku Amankwah to respond to same. Our client was appointed as a Deputy Commissioner of the EC which is an independent institution in accordance with Article 44 (3) of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana. For your information, Article 146 of the Constitution sets up processes and procedure for dealing with allegations against persons of the status of our client. From our reckoning, your letter does not comply with the said processes and procedure, for that runs counter to the processes and procedure laid down in the Constitution. Our client has been advised not to comply with your directive as same is unconstitutional. Please be advised accordingly.”
The money in question was allegedly withdrawn from the Endowment Fund of the EC between 2012 and 2013 by the three officials during the tenure of Dr Kwadwo Afari Gyan as EC Chair, and used for official business pertaining to the commission.
Investigations by Class News suggest they were expected to have reimbursed the Fund before Dr Afari Gyan’s exit from office but did not do so until Mrs Osei took office upon her predecessor’s retirement.
Acting Executive Director of EOCO, ACP K. K Amoah (Rtd), in a letter written to the EC Chair dated 4 July, 2017, said: “This office would be grateful if you could direct the officers listed above to proceed on leave while investigations proceed.”
In compliance with EOCO’s request, Mrs Osei wrote to the three officers saying: “As you are aware, the Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO) is investigating the loss of about GHS480,000 from the staff Endowment Fund. Pursuant to this investigation, EOCO has requested that I direct you to proceed on leave while the investigation proceeds. This is to ensure the integrity of the investigation. During the period of your leave, please be advised that you are not to undertake any business on behalf of the commission or access any information from the commission until the investigations are concluded. By this letter, may I ask you to proceed on leave immediately.”
But the Director of Finance in a response letter said: “I wish to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 5 July directing me to proceed on leave pending the EOCO investigation into an alleged loss of about GHS480,000 from the staff Endowment Fund. As you are aware, I wish to state on record again that I was neither at post as Director of Finance nor was I in any position to influence management’s decision regarding financial administration of the Endowment Fund during the period of the alleged loss. I am, therefore, in no position to influence the integrity of the investigation as stated in your letter while at post since I have no involvement in the alleged loss. Madam, assuming without admitting that officers who inherit problems they have no knowledge of from their predecessor are made to proceed on leave, then on the principle of fairness, all management staff in the same position must equally proceed on leave. I wish to courteously submit that subsequent to my assumption of duty as Director of Finance, there has not been any incident of the same or similar nature.”
In response to Dr Asamoah’s letter, the EC Chair warned him via another letter to comply with the directive to proceed on leave in order to avoid sanctions.
In a letter dated 7 July 2017 addressed to Dr Asamoah signed by the EC Chair, Mrs Osei asked Dr Asamoah to “kindly note that the letter directing you to proceed on leave was as a result of the directive received from the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) dated July 4, 2017”.
She said in complying with the directive, “I was mindful of the provisions of the EOCO Act, 2010 (Act 804)” which state:
1. The office may conduct investigations in conjunction with security agencies and other persons
2. An officer of a public agency shall cooperate with officers of the office in the performance of functions under this Act
3. A public officer who refuses or fails without reasonable cause to cooperate with an authorised officer of the office commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than 50 penalty units or to a term of imprisonment of not more than three months or both.”
She, therefore, admonished Dr Asamoah to be guided accordingly.