A resident of Navrongo has filed a lawsuit seeking the removal of Prof. Eric Magnus Wilmot, the Vice-Chancellor of C.K. Tedam University of Technology and Applied Sciences.
He is also seeking the removal of Dr. V.A. Ankamah-Lomotey, the university’s registrar, on the grounds that the two are above the retirement age and are, therefore, ineligible to hold their positions.
Apart from their removal from office, the plaintiff, Joseph Pwoawuvi Weguri, wants the court to order the two defendants to refund all monies, including salaries and allowances, they received from the Consolidated Fund and/or from the university, and costs, including his (Mr Weguri’s) legal fees.
The Fourth Estate reported in October last year that the appointment of the two retirees had become a matter of concern for the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission (GTEC), which expressed reservations about the university’s decision to appoint them to substantive positions.
The plaintiff describes in his suit filed on March 20, 2023, as “unlawful, arbitrary, and illegal” actions in relation to the two university officials’ appointments and wants the court to nullify it.
Also joined to the suit are the university, located in Navrongo in the Upper East Region, and the Attorney General.
The plaintiff contends that the Act establishing the university mandates it to appoint its officers, including a vice-chancellor and registrars, in accordance with the statutes of the university.
However, the plaintiff claims that the appointing authorities violated the public service laws of Ghana, especially Article 199 of the Constitution, 1992, by allowing the public officers to remain in full-term employment after they attained the age of compulsory retirement.
The plaintiff also claims that the GTEC cautioned public universities on appointments and post-retirement contracts in a circular dated June 8, 2021.
Despite this warning, the university, by letters dated December 1, 2020, appointed Prof. Eric Magnus Wilmot as Vice-Chancellor and Dr. V.A. Ankamah-Lomotey, as Registrar of the institution for full terms of four (4) years each.
The plaintiff further alleges that before his appointment as the substantive vice-chancellor, Prof Wilmot, who had retired as a public officer of the University of Cape Coast in 2019, was first appointed interim vice-chancellor of the institution.
Although Prof. Wilmot and Dr. Ankamah-Lomotey have attained the ages of compulsory retirement, they have remained in full-term employment at the university and have been receiving salaries and allowances from the Consolidated Fund.
Mr Weguri, who contested the 2016 parliamentary election on the ticket of the Peoples National Convention (PNC), contends that the continuous occupation of office and withdrawal of salaries and allowances by the two university administrators, after they have attained the age of compulsory retirement and after Prof Wilmot had retired from the public service, is not only unlawful but also illegal.
He claims that while Prof. Wilmot turned 60 years in April 2022, Dr. Ankamah-Lomotey attained 60 years in August 2021.
He further claims that the defendants (the university and the government) acted in an unlawful, arbitrary, and capricious manner by giving full-term employment to the two after they attained compulsory retirement age and after Prof. Wilmot had retired from public service.
The plaintiff further states that the university did not follow laid down procedures in appointing the two, which included constituting a search party, publishing vacancies, and shortlisting applicants for interviews to select suitable persons for the positions, including the positions of Vice-Chancellor and registrars.
The plaintiff said he had petitioned the Minister of Education and the university for the removal of the two university officials, but the petition was dismissed on unjustifiable grounds.
In the petition dated, November 21, 2022, Mr. Weguri pointed out that the irregularities in the appointment of Prof. Wilmot and Ankamah-Lomotey, “are inconsistent with Article 199 of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana (as amended by Act 527-Amendment Act 1996).
The law states that:
“Notwithstanding clause (1) of this article, a public officer who retired from the public service after attaining the age of sixty years may where the exigencies of the service require, be engaged for a limited period of not more than two years at a time but not exceeding five years in all and upon such other terms and conditions as the appointing authority shall determine.”
According to the petition, it was in compliance with this provision of the Constitution that President Nana Akufo-Addo first appointed the duo in an interim capacity in May 2020.
However, the petition pointed out that the then Minister of Education, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh; the Director-General of GTEC and the Governing Council of CKT-UTAS violated the 1992 Constitution by appointing them into substantive positions with effect from September 2020 in a letter dated December 1, 2020, for a full term of four (4) years.
“This Act of impunity is also frowned upon by the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission Directive on reengagement of retired employees of Higher Education Institutions which states among other things that ‘persons who are re-engaged after retirement subject to permission cannot be assigned position holding roles nor draw allowances due a person still in active service.’”
He asserted, “It is worthy of emphasis that even where the government would approve post-retirement contract appointments in public universities, it is usually to non-office holding positions and the skills of the retiring officer must be in short supply and unavoidably needed.”
Governing Council’s Response to Allegations
Meanwhile, the university’s Governing Council in a letter dated January 12, 2023, responded to Mr Weguri’s allegations.
The letter signed by Professor Gordon A. Awandare, the Chairman of Governing Council CKT-UTAS, acknowledged that in May 2020, Prof Wilmot and Dr Ankamah-Lomotey were given interim appointments for a year.
“The Governing Council when duly constituted was given the mandate to regularise the appointments of the vice-chancellor and registrar. At the time of their appointment, the vice-chancellor was 58 years old while the registrar was 59 years old. In pursuit of its mandate to appoint a VC and Registrar, the Governing Council constituted a committee, chaired by an eminent retired professor, to interview and ascertain the suitability or otherwise of the two officers.”
It continued: “The committee, therefore, subjected the officers to a rigorous interview and submitted its report to the Governing Council. Council discussed and approved the report and then formally sought and obtained approval from the Minister of Education through the Director General of the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission (GTEC) to offer full four-year terms of office to Professor Eric Magnus Wilmot as vice-chancellor and Dr V. A. Ankamah-Lomotey as registrar, spanning September 2020 to August 2024,” it said in response to the allegations of wrongdoing.
According to the letter, although there have been accusations of incompetence, the council has regularly received quarterly reports from the vice-chancellor and has been content with the management’s overall performance and the progress being made.
“We do not believe there is ‘gross incompetence’. As is the case in every new institution, challenges exist, and [the] council is providing the needed supervision to management to tackle the challenges and provide a solid foundation for the university,” it said.
The Ghana Tertiary Education Commission (GTEC) last year expressed reservations about the increasing number of post-retirement contract staff appointed to positions in stated-funded higher education institutions (PFHEI).
GTEC has stated that people who are re-engaged after retirement cannot be assigned position-holding roles nor draw allowances due to a person still in active service.
The integrated personnel payroll department and budget department of the commission were instructed not to process the emoluments of any post-retired staff without the required evidence after August 1, 2021.
However, it has been revealed that Professor Eric Magnus Wilmot, a university retiree holding a substantive top position of vice-chancellor and Dr. Vincent A. Ankamah-Lomotey have both been given substantive appointments that would keep them in office after their retirement age of 60.
Professor Wilmot retired voluntarily in 2019 from the University of Cape Coast (UCC), where he was the Provost of the College of Education Studies for three years. In 2020, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo granted him an interim appointment for only one year as vice-chancellor for the CKT-UTAS. The interim appointment was due to elapse in July 2021.
But before the appointment elapsed, the university’s governing council issued its own appointment to Prof. Wilmot, giving him four years to serve further as vice-chancellor.
The post-retirement appointment of Prof. Wilmot as vice-chancellor took effect on September 1, 2020. He is due to retire again in 2024, and when he does, he will be entitled to some benefits as per the conditions of his post-retirement service at the CKT-UTAS.
The Registrar of CKT-UTAS, Dr. Vincent A. Ankamah-Lomotey, was a former deputy registrar of the College of Science at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). President Akufo-Addo gave him an interim appointment in 2020 for one year as the registrar of the CKT-UTAS. He was a little over 59 years at the time, with barely a year to hit the mandatory retirement age of 60.
Months before the one-year interim appointment was to elapse in July 2021, the school’s governing council offered him a four-year appointment. Both the retiree vice-chancellor and the registrar are no longer serving the president’s one-year interim appointments, which elapsed in July 2021.
They are currently serving in substantive positions on full-term appointments issued by the governing council, contrary to the rules governing such appointments in public universities in Ghana.
When The Fourth Estate contacted the vice-chancellor on the post-retirement appointment, he stated that no rule had been broken, and he was performing his role, so he deserved his post-retirement earnings. When the registrar was asked about the issue, he did not provide any response.