The Electoral Commission (EC) on Thursday began a series of engagements with stakeholders to justify its decision for a new Biometric Voter Management System (BVMS) and a new Biometric Voters Register (BVR).
In the first of such engagements, the EC met with representatives of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) on Thursday morning and senior editors in the evening.
In a presentation to dispel what it termed some misconceptions about the EC’s decision to go for a new register, the Deputy Chairman of the EC in-charge of Operations, Mr Samuel Tettey, said the issue of compiling new registers in election years was not new as it was done in 2004 and 2012.
He said the capability of the EC to undertake the exercise was not in doubt and gave an assurance that it would be done and the equipment tested before the election in December 2020, reports Albert K. Salia.
On the issue of ECOWAS protocol not permitting registrations in election years, he said the protocol talked about amending electoral laws six months to elections.
Mr Tettey said the EC had also been consistent with changing the register after every two elections.
He said the compilation of a new register provided an avenue to reform and improve the existing register.
Mr Tettey said the EC, in its bid to build a robust system, engaged a number of consultants, including those who were involved in the Kenya and Nigeria elections to pick up some lessons from their experiences.
To prevent vendor lock-in, he said, the EC went in for open technology and systems that adhered to industry standards.
“To this end, the EC broke up the tendering process for the new BVMS into the provision of network services to connect the various district offices, building a new production and disaster recovery data centre, provision of hardware component and provision of software components,” he said.
He said the EC had been very open with its tendering processes.
Mr Tettey said the BVR kits were more than seven years old and were at the end-of-life, and therefore, could hardly be supported.
He explained that the current Biometric Verification Device (BVD) was unable to verify a number of voters electronically, resulting in a high number of manual verifications on voting day. “This compromises the integrity of the elections,” he added.
Responding to some of the issues, the Chairperson of the EC, Mrs Jean Mensa, was hopeful that this would be the last time the EC would compile a new register.
That was because after the National Identification Authority (NIA) had completed its registration, its data could easily be accessed and tied in with that of the EC.
She stressed that it was important that the current system was tightened and strengthened so that no one could manipulate the system.
During an open forum, while some of the participants commended the EC for its initiative to compile a new register, others wondered why the EC would not wait for the conduct of the population census and the completion of the NIA registration exercise to tie it in.
Those in favour of the compilation argued that the EC must improve on communicating its policies and programmes to convince the electorate.
An independent presidential candidate in the 2016 election, Mr Jacob Osei Yeboah, supported the decision of the EC to compile a new register.
He, however, advised the EC to put on an effective communication plan and team to convince Ghanaians.
The Vice President of Imani Ghana, Mr Kofi Bentil, was of the view that the EC had failed to convince him on the need for a new register.
According to him, the EC had acknowledged that the problem with the existing system was not a software issue, hence it could still be used.
For his part, the Executive Director of the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG), Dr Emmanuel Akwetey, said giving the suspicions that surrounded elections in the country.it was necessary for the EC to deepen its stakeholder engagements in order to get the buy-in of Ghanaians.