Electoral Commission Chair, Charlotte Osei has said that petitioners requesting for the impeachment of their Chairperson for malfeasance and violations may not be staff of the commission after all.
Responding to the 5th of 27 claims made by the petitioners against Mrs. Osei, she stated that the services of Lawyers Sory@law were implored by the commission based on a consensual agreement by its members.
According to her, contrary to claims suggesting that she engaged the service of the aforementioned lawyers without recourse to the commission and without going through the procurement process, Sory@law was retained on the basis of a decision of the commission taken at a meeting on September 2015.
She maintained that the petitioners may not be privy to this information because they “may not be staff of the commission as they claim” and hence may not be aware of the fact that the commission received “a letter on November 16, 2016 providing a fee quote for its services and offering a flat rate fee for High Court cases and Supreme Court cases which was accepted”.
Mrs. Osei said that members of the Commission including the two Deputy Chairpersons would clearly have to explain the basis for meetings held between the entire commission and Lawyer Thaddaeus Sory and other meetings between management and executive management staff if indeed it were true that she unilaterally retained the lawyer.
The Petitioners accused the EC Boss of going contrary to the Public Procurement Act by engaging the service of lawyers Sory@law without following due process. The claim read:
Claim 5: “Mrs. Charlotte Osei, without recourse to the Commission engaged the Service of lawyers Sory@law without going through the procurement process. This service engagement goes contrary to the Public Procurement Act. As at now, there is no formal contractual arrangement between the Commission and the Solicitors. The basis of fees computation for services rendered by these lawyers still remains unknown.”
Mrs. Charlotte Osei’s response reads:
Response 5:Sory@ Law was retained on the basis of a decision of the Commission taken at a Commission meeting of September 2015. If there has been any breach in the procurement process, then the entire Commission must be held responsible. It was made clear at the meeting that fees for litigation related work cannot be agreed ahead as it would depend on the complexity of each case and the court where a case was filed. For instance, Supreme Court cases are usually billed higher than cases conducted at the High Court.
It was therefore the function of the Chairperson to refer all incoming lawsuits to Sory@Law on the basis of the Commission’s decision. It was the function of the Deputy Chairperson CS to negotiate the fees for each matter referred with Sory@Law. Indeed, the same Deputy Chairperson CS has previously failed to negotiate fees with previous counsel retained by the Commission or ensure that they are paid for legal work done. Some of these payments remain outstanding four years after services have been rendered.
If it is true that the Chairperson unilaterally retained Sory@Law, members of the Commission including the two Deputy Chairpersons would clearly have to explain the basis for meetings held between the entire Commission and Lawyer T. Sory, and other meetings between management and executive management staff, and staff of Sory@Law to discuss pending cases.
The petitioners may not be staff of the Commission as they claim and so may not be privy to the fact that on November 16, 2016, Sory@Law wrote to the Commission providing a fee quote for its services and offering a flat rate fee for High Court cases and Supreme Court cases which was accepted. The said letter is attached hereto and marked ‘CO5A’. Further, any payments made to Sory@Law have been effected by the Director Finance under the supervision of the Deputy Chairperson CS.
If the petitioners have no knowledge of the arrangements with Sory@Law, one wonders the basis for payments made to Sory@Law without the approval or knowledge of the Chairperson. The petitioners in the interest of fairness and transparency, may wish to present the agreement between the Commission and its previous legal counsel, specifying the scope of services and agreed fees a. In which case, it would be helpful to explain why the Commission as at the date of the alleged petition, has been unable to pay its lawyers for the 2013 Presidential election petition.