Story by ALFRED AHIATSI
Regrettably, despite demonstrating enough utility and justification for the adoption of a new Biometric Voter Management Solution to deal with the many challenges with the current system by the electoral commission, some political parties led by the NDC, are hell-bent on registering strong opposition to this innocuous intention by the commission to improve our electoral system. You would expect that as key stakeholders, all political parties will rather throw their unflinching support for the election management body to enhance the nation’s electoral administration and not be seen to be thwarting the efforts of the commission.
We are saddened by the continuous bashing of the EC by the NDC in particular for no justifiable reasons, and we wish to call on all well-meaning Ghanaians to call the so-called main opposition party to order. The NDC proves to be a big danger to the confidence endeared in IPAC and indeed an agelong stumbling block to the enterprise of electoral reforms for purposes of enhancing our electoral system. You will notice that, consistently, anytime we all sit at IPAC and take decision, the NDC will come out to contradict what we had all agreed on. Here, mention can be made of their betrayal of trust on the U-turn they made regarding the ‘botched’ referendum on local government elections recently among several examples. With all due respect, the NDC makes IPAC look almost useless.
In furtherance of their diabolic agenda against the EC, we have taken notice that the NDC is currently leading a Coalition comprising some 6 political parties under the umbrella name “Inter-Party Resistance Against the New Voters’ Register” to constantly torment the EC in its attempt to improve our electoral system by procuring a new biometric system ahead of election 2020.
It is interesting that out of the over 21 registered political parties operating in the country, the NDC was able to convince only 6 of the parties to join them in this destruction mission. The Coalition, you will recall, held a press conference on Monday to make its case against the compilation of a new register ahead of the 2020 elections. Unfortunately, however, their statement was replete with deliberate distortions and blatant falsehoods intended to mislead and incite the Ghanaian public against the EC’s move to compile a new register.
We wish to at this juncture, respond to some of the claims they made and accordingly set the records straight:
a) Why should the EC compile a register in an election year?
Response: Records have it that anytime the Electoral Commission of Ghana compiled a new voters register, it had almost always done that in an election year. Indeed, the current biometric voters register, which was compiled by the EC was done in an election year, which was in 2012. Also, in 2004, the EC complied a new voters register prior to the general elections held that year. Hence, the Commission’s capability to compile a new voters’ register in an election year can certainly not be doubted by any stretch of imagination. So, what we are seeing today is not new… but a continuation of the EC’s own established convention.
b) It is too expensive to compile a new voters register
Response: This is a blatant falsehood because, on the contrary, the report from the independent consultants as well as the EC’s own IT team have established that it is rather more expensive refurbishing the current system which had become obsolete and unfit for purpose than to acquire an entirely new system. In other words, the amount of money spent on refurbishing parts and renewing warranties on the current system could be used to acquire a brand new system that is robust, modern and durable user-friendly with full functionality and warranties.
Secondly, the amount of money spent by the Charlotte Osei-led EC for just limited voter registration in 2016 is much more than the amount of money proposed to be spent by the Jean Mensah-led EC, not for limited registration but for an entirely new biometric system with more functionalities. Charlotte Osei spent GHc487.9 million on limited registration whereas Jean Mensah is spending GHc 390 million to procure a new Biometric Voters Solution and to compile a fresh voter registration. The EC gave a breakdown of the figures in a press conference it held recently as follows:
“The cost of updating the obsolete Data Centre as proposed by the previous vendor was to have cost the Commission Fifteen Million United States Dollars ($15 million) exclusive of taxes. Today, the Commission is acquiring a new Data Centre at Six Million United States Dollars exclusive of taxes. Further, the cost of refurbishing the obsolete BVR kits as proposed by the previous vendor was 3,500 Dollars per kit. This is how much we are buying a new kit for. The cost of procuring a new BVR Kit as proposed by the previous vendors was $5,145 exclusive of taxes.
We intend to procure a new BVR kit for 3,500 inclusive of taxes. Furthermore, the cost of upgrading the obsolete BVDs as proposed by the previous vendor was $244 and the cost of a new BVD as proposed by previous vendors is $917 exclusive of taxes. The Commission intends to acquire new modern, user-friendly BVDs for 400 USD inclusive of taxes. At the end of the procurement process, we will inform Ghanaians about the actual costs involved”.
c) Spending GHc 390 million on a new voters register is a misplaced priority
Response: Election is very key to the sustenance of our multiparty democracy, and the cost of a disputed election cannot be quantified. It is certainly not too much to spend GHc 390 million to secure the peace of this country before, during and after general elections. We also disagree with their claim that this money should rather be invested in building more schools, hospitals, roads and in resolving other social problems. In any case, government has not stopped building schools, hospitals and the construction of roads among others. And spending GHc 390 million on new voters register that will enhance the credibility of our elections will not stop government from continuing to deliver social infrastructure to the Ghanaian people.
Government and for that matter, the state has not told us that it cannot finance the cost of the compilation of the register. Also, Parliament has given the EC the green light to go ahead and spend that amount of money on the acquisition of a new biometric voters solution and the subsequent compilation of a new voters register. In any case, is the NDC telling us that in 2012 when they were in government and the EC decided to compile a new biometric voters register, all the problems in Ghana had then been resolved? Were all the roads constructed? Were all the schools and hospitals needed in the country built? Can there ever be a time where the nation will not clamour for roads, hospitals, and schools? Why are we being this hypocritical and disingenuous?
d) Compiling a new voters register is a recipe for chaos in the country
Response: We cannot fathom how the compilation of a new voters register to improve and enhance the credibility of our election can be construed by any reason man as a recipe for chaos. On the contrary, we think that it is rather the NDC’s reckless comments and ugly noises against the compilation of a more credible register as well as their diabolic agenda against the Election Commission including their desperate move to incite the Ghanaian public against the Commission that is jeopardizing the peace and security of this country. You will recall the Ofoso Ampofo’s [NDC National Chairman] leaked tape and recently Elvis Afriye Ankrah [The NDC Director of Elections] leaked tape on the subject.
In effect, the NDC has unleashed its babies with sharp and its leadership to go launching attacks at the EC and inciting the public to stage a sustained protest in a manner that will bring the entire country to a standstill as indicated by the NDC’s director of elections, Elvis Afriyie Ankrah. Also, one of their lead-communicators, Prince Derrick Adjei, in a recent Facebook post indicated “NEW VOTERS REGISTER must only be after 2020 election if we are to avoid bloodshed… #Akufo-Addo ABORT”. Certainly, it is this kind of posturing by the NDC that is a recipe for chaos and not the EC’s move to enhance the credibility of the voters register by the acquisition of an enhanced biometric system.
e) We successfully used the current register in the just ended District Assembly and Unit Committee Elections
Response: This is akin to comparing apples with oranges because we all know that turn out in district assembly and unit committee elections is nowhere comparable with turn out in general elections. Hence the pressure that is brought to bear on the biometric system during district assembly elections is nowhere comparable with what we often see during general elections. In any case, the EC tells us that even with the less pressure and turnout associated with the district assembly elections, they had to refurbish and repair the BVDs at huge cost to get them ready. This, they said, was labour intensive and an expensive process that spanned through several months from May, 2019 to December, 2019 with the Commission having to hire additional hands to get the devices ready for the district assembly elections.
The Commission spent close to Two Million Ghana Cedis just for refurbishment of the BVDs and BVRs ahead of the district assembly elections. Notwithstanding these extra efforts the EC took, the data shows that out of a total number of Five Million, Four Hundred and Thirty-One Thousand, Nine Hundred and two (5,431902) verified, Thirty-Four Thousand, Eight Hundred and Forty-Three (34,843) were manually verified. This is a significant number which can determine the winner of an election, as we saw in the 2008 general elections. However, we all know that the inclusion of facial recognition which comes with the new system will completely eliminate manual verification and will ensure that the will of the people stands and that every vote cast matters.
To conclude, we are convinced ladies and gentlemen by the Electoral Commission’s justification for acquiring a new Biometric Voter Management System (BVMS) and also compiling a new voters’ register ahead of the 2020 general elections. As key stakeholders, we associate ourselves wholly with any electoral reforms or process that seeks to enhance the nation’s electoral system and engender the needed confidence and credibility in our elections. We, however, implore the EC to continue to engage all stakeholders including those opposed to this undertaking in an atmosphere of openness and sincerity.
The commission must continue to demonstrate that it has the wherewithal within the constraint of time to administer the new Biometric Voter Management System (BVMS) and also to compile a new voters’ register ahead of the 2020 general elections. As political parties and key stakeholders, we assure the Ghanaian people that we shall continue to keenly police the process and not hesitate to make our concerns public should we have any, in order to have same addressed by the election management body for the advancement of our multiparty constitutional democracy and for the love of country.
and many others