The Supreme Court of Ghana, this morning (Wednesday, 31 October 2018), by unanimous decision, quashed by certiorari, the judgment of the Winneba High Court, presided over by Justice George Ato Mills-Graves, dated 2 May 2018 in connection with the removal of Prof. Mawutor Avoke as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Education, Winneba (UEW).
The Supreme Court noted that having failed to take evidence from the parties before purporting to grant a judgment in default of defence on purely declaratory reliefs, the High Court had grievously erred and the said error was patent on the face of the record.
By this unanimous decision, the judgment of the Winneba High Court, based on which Prof Avoke was removed from office, stands quashed and is, therefore, null and void and of no effect.
Prof Avoke and five principal officers of the university were dismissed per the High Court judgment.
The Winneba High Court in 2017, ordered Professor Avoke, prior to his dismissal, to step aside until a case brought against him and the university’s Governing Council, was determined.
The order was made in a case brought before the court by one Supi Kofi Kwayera, who insisted that the Vice-Chancellor and the Finance Officer were operating under the institution’s defunct Governing Council.
The university, through its lawyers, even before the substantive claims were looked into, applied to the court to dismiss the suit on the three counts. The court, however, dismissed their application.
The High Court subsequently found Professor Avoke, and the school’s Finance Officer, Dr Theophilus Senyo Ackorlie, guilty of procurement and other financial irregularities.
They were interdicted in July 2017 by the UEW Governing Council to allow for investigations after it emerged that some vital documents at some offices at the centre of an ongoing investigation, had gone missing.
Professor Avoke in a statement denied any wrongdoing.
Read the full statement below:
PRESS RELEASE BY PROFESSOR MAWUTOR AVOKE AND OTHER PURPORTEDLY DISMISSED OFFICERS OF UNIVERSITY OF EDUCATION, WINNEBA
Following our purported dismissal by the Governing Council of the University of Education, Winneba (UEW) last week, we have tried very hard not to publicly comment or say anything about the subject in spite of the huge demand from families, relatives, colleagues and friends and to do so.
We decided not to publicly comment on the subject for two main reasons:
a. The issues are in the Superior Courts of judicature: The Supreme Court in Accra and High Court in Cape Coast. We have very high respect for the courts and shall continue to do so.
b. Our Press Release, published on pages 88, 89 & 90 of Wednesday, 20th December, 2017 Edition of the Daily Graphic, extensively explained all the issues and established very clearly that we followed every single step and procedure required by the Laws/ Rules/ Regulations of Ghana and the University of Education, Winneba in the award of all procurement contracts that we signed.
However, we noticed that there is a lot of misinformation in the social, print and electronic media on the subject. Some people have also misconstrued our silence on the subject as an admission of guilt. We have therefore decided to provide these clarifications to the public.
1. No court has found us guilty of any procurement or financial malfeasance. As individuals, we have not been taken to any court and no charges have been brought against us. We have also not appeared before any court or been heard by any court on any charges. It is not true that the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mawutor Avoke and the Finance Officer, Dr. Theophilus Senyo Ackorlie were found guilty of procurement or financial malfeasance by any court.
2. In its 14th December 2017 ruling on Suit Number E12/40/17, the Winneba High Court ruled that the Vice-Chancellor and the Finance Officer were implicated in the North Campus Road Contract.
a. In the Civil Motion Number J5/65/2017, the Supreme Court on 20th December 2017 unanimously quashed the 14th December 2017 ruling by the Winneba High Court. To this effect, the Winneba High Court ruling ceased to exist by 20th December 2017 and cannot be referred to in any commentary or write up or report or article on the current UEW issues affecting us.
b. We wish to state emphatically that the said North Campus Road Contract was not awarded by Professor Mawutor Avoke. The North Campus Road Contract was awarded by the then Vice-Chancellor, Professor Akwasi Asabere-Ameyaw through an MOU between UEW and the Ghana Highway Authority (GHA) in Winneba.
c. The first phase of this contract was done in 2012/2013 academic year when the current Chairman of the University Council, Professor Emmanuel Nicholas Abakah was the Pro Vice-Chancellor and he approved all the payment vouchers (PVs) for the payments.
The second phase started in March 2015 when the current Ag. Vice-Chancellor, Rev. Fr. Professor Anthony Afful-Broni was the Pro Vice-Chancellor. Most of the payment vouchers for the second phase were approved by Rev. Fr. Prof Anthony Afful-Broni. The payment vouchers are all there to confirm their full participation especially in the approval of payments.
3. After the Supreme Court had quashed the 14th December 2017 ruling by the Winneba High Court, the plaintiff (Supi Kofi Kwayera supported by Hon. Afenyo-Markins) went back to the Winneba High Court in February 2018 to file a new suit on only the tenure of the UEW Council: Suit Number E12/30/18.
This new suit did not make any reference to procurement or procurement contracts. The Winneba High Court ruled on this new suit on 2nd May, 2018 declaring that the President of the Republic of Ghana has no power to extend the tenure of the UEW Council after its term expired in November 2013 and that all decisions (including appointments) made by the UEW Council after November 2013 to June 2016 were null and void. This is the only court ruling currently standing against UEW. There is an application currently at the Supreme Court, Civil Motion Number J5/45/2018, contesting this 2nd May 2018 ruling by the Winneba High Court.
The Supreme Court has fixed 31st October 2018 for ruling on this case.
a. It must be noted that this ruling does not only affect the appointment of Professor Mawutor Avoke as Vice-Chancellor. The then Council took a lot of decisions and made a lot of appointments between December 2013 and June 2016 including promotion of the then Rev. Fr. Associate Professor Anthony Afful-Broni to Professor and his appointment as a Pro Vice Chancellor for a second term in 2015 among others.
b. The publications by a former member of the UEW Council on page 59 of the Daily Graphic of 25th October 2017 and by VCG on page 49 of the Daily Graphic of 16th July 2017, explained the issue of the tenure of UEW Council very clearly and in detail.
4. We filed a suit (Suit Number E10/4/2018) at the Cape Coast High Court in February 2018 for a judicial review, challenging our interdiction, on-going disciplinary procedures by the University Council against us and other breaches of the University Act and the University Statutes.
The University has since February 2018 caused adjournments of this case using various strategies including avoiding services, submission of medical reports to excuse their lawyers from attending to court and other counter applications. The University has as at the last court sitting not filed their defense to our application for judicial review.
5. In the face of these adjournments in hearing our application for judicial review, the University Management continued to perpetuate the breaches that we sought to prevent in Court. We, therefore, filed Suit Number E10/159/2018 for contempt. The affected University officials cited for contempt, avoided services on many occasions so we went back to court for substituted service, which enabled us to publish the service in the 30th May 2018 Edition of the Daily Graphic.
6. These two suits: E10/4/2018 and E10/159/2018, which are fundamental to this subject are all pending at the Cape Coast High Court. At the last hearing on 14th and 15th August 2018, the cases were adjourned to 17th and 22nd October 2018 respectively.
7. We were very surprised that in spite of the pendency of these suits at both the Supreme Court and the High Court in Cape Coast, the Council could still go ahead and dismiss us using the very same procedures and citing the very same reasons which are pending in the courts.
8. In our dismissal letters, the Council gave two reasons: a. “You did not observe due diligence and you occasioned breaches and irregularities in the performance of your functions relative to the laws and regulations in the governance of the University” b. “Your failure to appear before the Disciplinary Board constituted disrespect of the first magnitude to the Governing Council and the University as a whole”
9. We wish to clearly state as follows:
a. We did not and never breached any laws or regulations in Ghana or in the University. We demonstrated this very clearly and explicitly in our publication of 20th December 2017 in the Daily Graphic, pages 88, 89 and 90.
b. We informed the Disciplinary Board through our Lawyers, Atuguba & Associates, that we were unable to honour their invitation at that time because there were pending suits at the High Court in Cape Coast concerning the very thing they were seeking to invite us to participate in. We requested that the Board allow the High Court in Cape Coast to complete its work then we could appear before them so as not to interfere with the administration of justice. How can this be termed as disrespect of the “first magnitude” to the Governing Council and the University as a whole?
10. If it is true that we occasioned breaches and irregularities in the award of contracts, why were these contracts not terminated by the Council and Management after they assume office for more than one year? Any contract which is signed in breach of laws and regulations of Ghana and the University is null and void and should be terminated by the Council immediately. Why are all the contractors at the site and working under these same contracts that we signed? Why are all the contractors being paid using the same contracts that we signed?
11. In October 2017, the Council alleged that vital documents and files were missing from our offices while we were at home under Court injunction. It is over 10 months since the allegation was made and the Council is yet to mention the names of the said documents and files that were alleged to have gone missing. Why is it difficult to mention the names of these so-called missing documents and files? We wish to state that we did not take any document from our offices. It is also important to state that by law copies of all procurement documents at the thresholds in question must be submitted to the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) and the Central Tender Review Board (CTRB). We submitted copies of all documents relating to all contracts we signed to both the PPA and CTRB and these state institutions can be contacted for copies.
12. The Council announced that there were three separate bodies investigating the allegations by Supi Kofi Kwayera/Hon. Afenyo-Markins. These were EOCO, BNI, and Council Fact-Finding Committee (CFFC). Why is the Council depending only on the report of CFFC and ignoring reports by the BNI and EOCO? Why has the Council made available to us only the report of CFFC and not those of BNI and EOCO? Why should the Council ignore or refuse to wait for the reports of BNI and EOCO? We wish to state that the report of CFFC is very inaccurate and baseless as it is based on misinformation or lack of information or lack of understanding of the procurement processes and university governance. Even in its current inaccurate form, the report of CFFC does not implicate us in any way or show that we have breached any law or regulation to warrant our dismissal.
13. We wish to assure our families, relatives, colleagues, and friends that we are innocent of all the allegations against us and will wait for the verdict of the courts. We completely disagree with our purported dismissal as was communicated to us and reported to the media. We shall use lawful means to seek justice. We believe that the truth shall be established and known to all one day no matter how long it takes.