Ghana CSOs kick against new voters register

…Register needs upgrade, not total replacement

The Coalition of Civil Society Organisations and individuals under the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition, has rejected the proposal by the Electoral Commission (EC) to procure a new voters’ register and an IT system.

According to the Coalition, the register and the IT system only needed an upgrade and not to be entirely discarded.

Mr Kofi Bentil, the Spokesperson for the Coalition, announced the CSOs position at a news conference it organised on Thursday in Accra.

The Coalition includes the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition, IMANI Africa, SEND Ghana, Africa Centre for International Law and Accountability, Financial Accountability and Transparency Africa, Media Foundation for West Africa, Youth Bridge Foundation, West Africa Civil Society Institute, Citizens Movement against Corruption, and Human Rights Advocacy Centre.

The others were the Ghana Integrity Initiative, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Women in Law and Development in Africa, Institute for Democratic Governance, Parliamentary Network Africa, Community Focused Foundation Ghana, PACKS-Africa, and Integrated Social Development Centre.

Mr Bentil said, “The present system the EC possesses is the most advanced of all its systems so far and possesses more features than any previous one. It’s been used recently to conduct nationwide elections with few problems. They cannot, thus, be said to be totally useless.”

“It is our view that the nation does not in the face of the present facts, need to throw out everything and acquire a totally new infrastructure when the present system could be augmented and made capable of performing the task.”

The EC alone, he said, could not determine that the whole system was useless and saddle the nation with the cost of a new one, especially when the only foundation for its assertion were the claims of a narrow set of vendors that basic market benchmarking studies could easily disprove.

Mr Bentil said the EC has not demonstrated that there was a defect with the Biometric Data.

If it wished to acquire a new Biometric Voters Registration (BVR) and Biometric Verification Device (BVD), the Coalition proposed that it publishes transparent, well-publicized, and tender to bring the costs to less than $15 million and not the $36 million it claimed to require.

The Coalition based the figures of average cost of $160 per its market benchmark study, and average BVR tablet costs of $750.

According to the Coalition, the EC would have been told that the failure rate of 0.6 per cent is rather reasonable it if had reached out to truly independent experts for advice.

No biometric authentication system, it explained, could offer a 100 per cent matching accuracy under their conditions at the scale they talked about.

The Coalition also proposed that instead of embarking on a new mass registration exercise in the acquisition of a new register, the EC consults the National Identification Authority (NIA) for the required data.

According to the National Identification Act 2006, ACT 707, Clause (2a), the Authority is mandated to collect personal data on citizens resident in the Republic and abroad and on foreign nationals permanently resident in the country.

They are also charged according to the Clause (2d) to make data in its custody available to persons or institutions authorized by law to access the data.

Mr Bentil said: “The NIA data has more details than the EC data, so the EC should be free to work with the NIA to compile its electoral data there from.”

The Coalition recommended that the EC opens up the electoral register for voters to verify their names, update the existing software in ways to make it more efficient and remove names of persons suspected to be dead or who do not verify.

It also encouraged the EC to work with the vendors to prime the hardware and where needed, replace faulty ones and acquire new hardware to augment the existing stock and work with the existing systems.

Source: GNA

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