Charlotte Osei hired lawyers without contract

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The agreement to engage a private legal firm to act as solicitors for the Electoral Commission (EC) was reached verbally even though huge amounts of money were used to pay the firm for its services.

The committee that was set up by the Chief Justice to investigate complaints against top EC bosses, which subsequently recommended the removal of the commission’s chairperson Charlotte Osei from office, established that there was no formal document to show that Sory@Law signed any contract to act as solicitors for the commission.

No Approval

The five-member committee, chaired by Justice Anthony Alfred Benin of the Supreme Court, found that the appointment of the law firm by the sacked EC Boss did not receive the approval of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA).

“On the issue as to whether the chairperson sought the approval of the PPA before or after engaging Messrs Sory@Law, the chairperson testified that no approval was obtained for the appointment,” the committee said on Page 14 of the 54-page document.

Other members of the committee included Justices Samuel K. Marful-Sau and Agnes Dordzie, both of the Court of Appeal, as well as Welbeck Abra-Appiah, a renowned banker and Rose Karikari-Anang, former Executive Secretary of Ghana Employers Association.

According to the committee’s report, the PPA Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Agyenim Boateng Agyei, testified during the proceedings that “his office has no records of the appointment of Messrs Sory@Law as lawyers of the EC.”

No Consensus

The committee said all the evidence showed that there was no consensus among members of the commission on the appointment of Messrs Sory@Law.

“No formal contract was executed between the EC and Messrs Sory@Law,” the committee said, adding “the fact that there was no appointment of previous solicitors, Messrs Lynns Quarshie Idun, could not be a justification for the manner in which Messrs Sory@Law was appointed.”

The committee’s report said that “the only records at the EC referable to Sory@Law are letters emanating from the law firm requesting payment for legal fees for services rendered.”

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The report said the EC Director of Finance, Dr. Joseph Asamoah, who also testified, said that after initial payment of GH¢176,250 to Sory@Law out of a bill of GH¢399,500, he refused to process any further payment of invoices raised by the law firm because there was no contract covering the appointment.

No Documents

According to the committee, when Deputy Commissioner in-charge of Corporate Service, Georgina Opoku Amankwah, who has also been sacked, appeared before the committee, she testified that she told the late Carl Adongo, who was working with Sory@Law, to ‘regularize’ the firm’s appointment with a contract, saying “these concerns of Madam Opoku Amankwah and Dr. Joseph Asamoah’s protest were, however, not documented.”

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The committee said Charlotte Osei had revealed that the law firm was appointed on September 2015 and that “at that time her threshold as the head of entity was GH¢5,000 for engaging consulting services.”

The committee said that “by appointing Messrs Sory@Law, the EC was definitely going to be liable to pay legal fees far beyond the GH¢5,000 threshold of the chairperson,” adding “that being the case, the chairperson should have used the competitive tendering process for engaging consultants in legal services, as required by Section 35, 44 and 47 of the Public Procurement Act, Act 663, as amended.”

Competitive Tender

According to the committee, the chairperson was required to advertise a competitive tender for the legal services for the commission and the procurement done through the Entity Tender Committee but this was not adhered to.

“In essence, the chairperson sole or single sourced the services of Messrs Sory@Law without the approval from the PPA contrary to Section 40 of the Act 633 as amended by Act 914.”

The committee said it was argued that the chairperson’s threshold was increased to GH¢100,000 under the PPA Law (Act 914, 2016) and therefore it was within her mandate to award the contract to the law firm because most of the invoices raised in a case-by-case basis were within the range of GH¢50,000.

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“This argument is flawed,” the committee said on Page 16 of the report.

“Firstly, the appointment of Sory@Law, from the evidence was done by the chairperson in September 2015, at the time the threshold of the chairperson was GH¢5,000 for services, adding “assuming that the contract value was within her threshold, the PPA Act 633, by its section 42 and 43 as amended, required that she procured the service through the request for quotation method by inviting at least three quotations from three potential service providers.”

The report said “this was not done so granted that the contract was even within the threshold of the chairperson, the engagement of Sory@Law would still be contrary to the PPA Act.”

Firm’s Invoices

The committee also said that there was an invoice for legal fees plus VAT raised by Sory@Law which was dated June 15, 2016, and the total amount was GH¢176,250 and that figure was above the threshold of the chairperson of the entity, adding, “Mrs. Charlotte Osei’s threshold was increased to GH¢100,000 in July 2016 and by November same year the law firm had sent an invoice of GH¢399,500 out of which GH¢175,063.83 was paid on February 17, 2017, also far beyond the chairperson’s threshold.”

It, therefore, recommended that the EC should cease using the services of Messrs Sory@Law as solicitors but the firm be paid for the legal services rendered.

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