New Voter Register: EC Boss Aching To Buy Problem For Ghanaians–NDC

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) has berated Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC), Jean Mensah for aching to create a problem for Ghanaians with a new voter register.

According to the party, the EC decision to make request for a Budget of GHC 443,646,663 or 4.436 Trillion old cedis is not only a complete waste of taxpayer money, but a means to create problem for Ghanaians in the midst of tension ahead of the 2020 general elections.

General Secretary of NDC, Mr Johnson Aseidu Nketiah, raised these concerns at a press conference in Accra Thursday December. 19, 2019.

The EC has hinted of compiling a new Voter register to conduct the 2020 general elections.

The EX claimed the Register that has been used for the 2018 referendum to create new regions and the recent District Assemblies elections, is old and absolute to be use.

But the NDC and other political parties disagreed, describing the move as an exercises to deliberately to create a problem for the country at the heat of the general elections.

Mr. Aseidu Nketiah warned that the NDC would use all legitimate means to fearlessly resist the EC from embarking on an exercises to compile  new register.

Jean Mensah, EC Boss

Read Full Statement


Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen of the press.
Welcome to you all and thank you most sincerely for coming.

We invited you here today to present to you in the strongest of terms our objection to what appears to be a decision of the Jean Mensah-Bossman Asare led Electoral Commission to compile a new voters’ register for the 2020 Presidential and Parliamentary elections. Before we come to the technical reasons for our objection to the decision, let me raise some basic common sense issues which simply show that any decision to compile a new voters’ register at this time defies logic and must be fiercely resisted, as we intend to do.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Two days ago, the current voters register was used to successfully elect about 6,600 District Assembly members and about 33,000 Unit Committee members. Yet the EC is telling us that that same register cannot be used to elect 1 President and 275 Members of Parliament and therefore a new voters’ register must be compiled. What has suddenly gone wrong with the register or what is likely to go wrong with the register between now and the election day of 7th December 2020 as to warrant such a decision?

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The current register was the register that was used to elect Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and the NPP into office. The details of that election are yet to be gazetted by the EC but if the results as announced are to be believed, then Nana Akufo-Addo won with a majority of almost one million votes. Therefore if anybody should be complaining about the register, it should be the NDC as the losing party. But we are not complaining. In fact we are saying that let us use the same register so that given the state of our knowledge of the shenanigans that were played by the NPP in the 2016 elections, we will see whether they can win again.

Indeed in their 2012 Election Petition to the Supreme Court, the NPP claimed that it had won the presidential election and asked the Supreme Court to declare Nana Akufo-Addo the winner. That election was conducted using the current register, whose authenticity is now being disputed by the body that conducted that election, the Electoral Commission. From the perspective of the NPP therefore, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the register.

By holding that the current register is fit for purpose, the NDC is not saying that the register is perfect and that further improvement through improved technology is not possible. Far from that. Indeed we agree with the EC that the two key objectives for the adoption of improved technology in the compilation of an electoral register are;
1. To improve the confidence of stakeholders in the credibility of the register
2. To prevent electoral fraud by way of impersonation, multiple voting, ineligible voting, inaccurate or fake results declaration etc.
However, we hold the view that these two objectives are inextricably inter-twined and are either achieved or lost together.
While conceding that it is possible to procure a technology that can reduce electoral fraud to the barest minimum, that technology would be useless if the processes leading to its acquisition lead to the erosion of confidence of stakeholders in the technology and its end product, the voters register.
There-in lies the wisdom of carrying all stakeholders along the path of openness, transparency, verifiability and accountability which is the only way to achieve the much needed confidence in any new system. We wish to remind the EC that CONFINDENCE OF STAKEHOLDERS is not a product that can be procured off the shelves of any supermarket and imposed on human beings however less privileged they may be to the impositor.

Johnson Aseidu Nketiah

In other words, no constitutional powers of the EC can be applied to compel stakeholders to have confidence is a system whose acquisition is shrouded in secrecy, suspicion, inconsistency and half-truths.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Many Ghanaians including NDC hold the view that there is something sinister behind the ploy by the Jean Mensah-Bossman Asare-led EC to compile a new voters’ register.

Their conduct so far portends a devious plan to set the stage to suppress voter numbers in the strongholds of the NDC and to bloat voter numbers in the strongholds of the NPP. We have been led to the impression that the current Chairman of the EC sees her mandate only in terms of getting Nana Akufo-Addo re-elected even if it means subverting the hard-won reputation of that otherwise respected institution.

Faced with such a situation, a wiser approach for the leadership of EC should have been to choose the path of openness, transparency and accountability to clear any doubts or suspicion surrounding their actions and decisions.
Unfortunately, the EC has chosen the path of flaunting their constitutional powers as if nobody knew about the existence of those powers before the path of dialogue and consensus building was chosen through the establishment of IPAC as a better way of building our electoral system.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Next year, 2020, there will be the ten-yearly Population and Housing Census to be conducted by the Statistical Service. By convention, after every population census, a new voters’ register is compiled by the EC because a new scientific population base would have been established against which the accuracy of the EC’s voters’ register can be tested. If a new voters’ register is compiled in 2020, is another one to be compiled in 2021 or 2022, and if it is not, how can the 2020 register be trusted?

For example, if the 2020 population census finds that the total national population has 60 per cent of Ghanaians under 18 years of age and yet the 2020 voters’ register contains 60 per cent of the total national population, meaning 60 per cent of Ghanaians are over 18 years of age, would that not mean that the 2020 voters’ register is unreliable?

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The cost of a new voter registration exercise is another matter altogether. We are informed that it involves the procurement of a new biometric registration system the cost of which is estimated at a gargantuan sum of over GHC 443,646,663 or 4.436 Trillion old cedis. And we are going to do this at a time when teachers are crying, nurses are crying, contractors are crying, drivers are crying and students are crying. The teachers, nurses and contractors are crying because they are owed huge arrears of emoluments and entitlements by the state. The drivers are crying because the perennial increases in fuel prices are driving them out of business. The students are crying because of the obnoxious double track system arising from the fact that the Government does not have money to provide residential and learning accommodation for them under the Free SHS system.

In fact, this economy which is in a near-comatose state cannot afford another wasteful expenditure coming on the heels of that highly controversial decision to award a contract for printing new currency notes of higher denomination at the reported cost of several billions of new Ghana cedis.

Ladies and Gentlemen
I will now proceed to some of the technical reasons for our objection to the compilation of a new voters’ register for the 2020 Presidential and Parliamentary elections.

You will recall that in March of this year, the National Democratic Congress demanded the withdrawal of a deceptive IPAC communique written by the Electoral Commission after an IPAC meeting which sought to create the impression that “after exhaustive deliberations all the parties agreed that there will be a compilation of a new biometric voters’ register”. As we indicated to you earlier this year, there were no such “extensive deliberations” on the matter. It was mentioned in passing by the Chairman of the EC and later smuggled into the communiqué, a communiqué which we rejected.

On 21st November 2019, the NDC received notice to attend an emergency meeting of IPAC on 25th November 2019 for the EC to brief members and obtain inputs for the just- ended District Assembly and Unit Committee elections. On the agenda of the meeting was an item “Programme for the Year 2020” under which again members of IPAC were ambushed with an announcement of the intention of the EC to procure a new biometric registration system for the registration of voters ahead of the 2020 general elections.

Though we considered this irregular, we nevertheless took the opportunity to explain to the EC why the technical challenges with the current toolkit did not warrant throwing away the current register which is rich with biometric and demographic data of Ghanaians eligible to vote as of July 2019.

The NDC subsequently wrote to the EC detailing what the EC had presented as “technical challenges that the EC was facing with the current technology being used” and therefore the need to have what they termed “a more efficient system”. We requested through the letter for the EC to furnish us with ALL the issues they had so far identified to be problematic with the current system for which reason they are proposing to embark on a new registration exercise to enable the NDC to make an informed decision on the matter of technical problems. Our request for us to be furnished with ALL the issues on the current system is yet to be responded to

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Electoral Commission has indicated that it needs to introduce facial recognition to enable it enhance the credibility of the current system. But the photos currently on the register are more than adequate to verify voters facially. You may recall Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, then NPP Vice Presidential candidate’s facial recognition matches between the Ghana voters’ roll and an alleged Togo voters’ roll in the run up to the 2016 elections and his dubious conclusion therefore that the Volta Region voters’ register had been bloated. Unless he was lying, how could he have done that if facial recognition was not part of the technology used to prepare the register?

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Rather than calling a regular meeting of IPAC as agreed earlier, the EC invited the NDC to attend another emergency IPAC meeting on the 2nd December 2019 at which another attempt was made to smuggle the issue of the procurement of a new biometric registration system into the discussion.

We drew the attention of the Electoral Commission to the precedent set by Dr Kwadwo Afari Gyan, the first Chairman of the EC, when he wanted to introduce the current biometric system for the 2012 elections. In order to enhance transparency and also inspire confidence in the system that was going to be introduced, Dr Kwadwo Afari Gyan put together a technical committee with representatives of the political parties as members, together with the EC’s technical committee to examine the technical details and security features of the system to allay the fears of political parties that the system configuration was being skewed to give undue advantage to any political party. This was when the NDC was in office.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The NDC has written to the EC debunking in concrete detail the issues raised by the Commission and explaining why those challenges identified by the EC do not warrant discarding the current data and system. We have presented alternatives that will not only save our tax payers the needless high expenditure associated with the procurement of a new biometric registration system but also represents the surest way of having incident-free elections in 2020.

Jean Mensah and Bossman Asare appear hell-bent on giving a contract for an entirely new system to a specific vendor for an entirely new registration exercise because they claim they are privy to a technical report which suggested that it was more cost-effective to abandon the current system in favor of a new system. In response to this, the political parties requested for the following:
1. A copy of the consultant’s technical report;
2. The cost of upgrading the current system; and
3. The cost of the proposed new system.
The political parties are yet to be provided with this information.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
At this stage, allow me to break the functionalities of the current EC systems for elections and its related identity management into the following:
1. Registration of eligible voters through the capture of biometrics (facial photo and fingerprints, all ten digits) and demographic data.
2. Transfer of data (biometric and demographic) from the registration workstations to the central datacenter for processing.
3. Software checking of fingerprints and setting aside the double fingerprinted ones from the main register.
4. Manual confirmation of double registration.
5. Generation and printing of three registers and a reference list per polling station for exhibition.
6. Processing of Issues resolved during exhibition by the review committees and courts.
7. Generation and printing of the Final Voters Registers
8. Generation of basic identity information and fingerprint templates to be loaded to verification devices
9. Loading of ID information and templates unto verification devices.
10. Verifying voters on Election Day

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Electoral Commission must tell Ghanaians which of these functionalities mentioned above cannot be undertaken by the system currently in place. From June 7, 2019 to July 8, 2019 the system the EC is claiming is obsolete registered 1,206,740 registrants during the limited registration exercise. It was the EC itself that announced to Ghanaians that that registration exercise was very successful. From September 10, 2019 to September 20, 2019 the EC exhibited the 2019 Provisional Voters Registers also based on the current system. Clearly, a system that can perform this way is more than adequate to process data on a limited registration data in 2020 for the elections.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
We call on the EC to emulate the example set by Dr Kwadwo Afari Gyan and set up a joint technical team made up of representatives of the political parties to work together with the EC technical team to come up with solutions to the technical challenges the EC claims it is having In order to enhance transparency and also inspire confidence in their system.

We invite you the media, civil society, moral society and the diplomatic community to make your voices heard on the decision of the EC under Jean Mensah and Bossman Asare to compile a new voters register for the 2020 elections. We must make common cause to ensure that the EC does not take the entire nation on this wasteful and uncertain path that has the potential to plunge this country into crisis. We refer you to a publication of Coalition for Domestic Elections Observers report in which it stated that the Biometric Verification Devices function well in almost all polling station during the just ended District Assembly Elections. We also draw your attention to a statement by Dr. Bossman Asare, published in the Wednesday 18th December, 2019 edition of the Ghanaian Times, where he referred to the turnout and conduct of the electoral process in the just ended District Assembly Election as satisfactory. So what again?
Decisions of the EC must be above board. A peaceful and successful election is the result of collaboration between all stakeholders. No member of the Commission should see himself or herself as an appointee of President Akufo-Addo with the sole mandate of ensuring his safe passage to a second term.
The NDC is ever ready to cooperate with the EC but Jean Mensah and Bossman Asare must demonstrate neutrality and fairness. They must be willing to listen to counter-proposals and suggestions that will inure to the conduct of credible elections as has happened under previous administrations of the EC.
Once again, we thank you all for coming.


Source: the Nyaaba

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