New Voters’ Register Brouhaha: EC Chair accused of ‘Packaging lies to Ghanaians’

Story by Carlos Afanou
It seems the brouhaha surrounding the new voter register won’t soon be over as the Inter-party resistance against a new voters’ register has accused the Electoral Commissioner, Jean Mensah and her team for decieving the good people of Ghana.
This is in an attempt to compile a new register ahead of the 2020 elections.
These falsehoods, he acclaims are coupled with the raging controversy over corrupt tender processes for the supply of new BDV equipment in its quest to announce a winner with a questionable record which clearly shows that something is not done right at the EC.
According to the General Secretary of the main opposition party, National Democratic Congress (NDC), Johnson Asiedu Nketia, her actions amount to a “well package lies to Ghanaians” to deliberately court public support for the compilation of a new voters register.
“It is either Jean Mensah and her sponsors have a financial interest in the procurement of entirely new equipment or that the compilation of a new register is part of a rigging agenda for the benefit of NPP or both”, he alleged.
The NDC scribe made these assertions at a press conference organised by the Inter Party Resistance against New Voters’ Register in Accra.
Mr. Asiedu Nketia used the ocassion to reveal the Inter Party Resistance against New Voter new evidence gained from both the manufacturers and suppliers of the existing biometric voter system at the Electoral Commission that buttress their view of no need for a new system as acountry.
Disclosing emails from the two companies that revealed the current system used by EC has no problem and can be upgraded to meet new standards required of.
The Inter Party Resistance against New Voters’ Registerconsist of six opposition parties namely: National Democratic Congress (NDC), United People’s Party (UPP), All People’s Congress (APC), Eagle’s Party, People’s National Convention (PNC).
Below is the full statement by the Inter Party Resistance against New Voters’ Register:
Good Morning distinguished ladies and gentlemen from the media. We are grateful for your presence.
We have invited you here this afternoon to share with you new information concerning the Electoral Commission’s irrational decision to throw away the existing biometric voters’ register and compile an entirely new voters’ register for the 2020 upcoming General Elections.
Before I proceed any further, let me refresh your memory on the reasons for our resistance against the EC’s decision to compile a new voters register. As you may be aware, the Inter-Party Resistance against the New Voters Register which is made up of six (6) Political Parties has always maintained that:
  1. The current biometric voters register is credible and can be updated through limited registration to deliver free and fair outcomes in the 2020 General Elections, as has been the case in previous elections since 2012.
Indeed, the current register has been the outcome of a long and exhaustive process of consensus-building among all key stakeholders including all political parties and major Civil Society Organizations in our elections architecture (including the IEA which was headed by the current EC Boss, Jean Mensah at the time) and was intentioned to serve as a permanent register which will be updated through continuous and limited registration.
  1. The current Biometric Voter Management System which is made up of BVRs, BVDs, Software application, data centre etc. is not obsolete but robust and can be maintained and/or upgraded to efficiently deliver the 2020 General Elections.
  2. We have also maintained that it will constitute a misplaced priority and an absolute waste of the already constrained public purse, for the EC to throw away the current credible voters’ register and spend over GHS800 million of taxpayers monies on the procurement of a needless new system and a new register. This is more so at this time when Ghanaians are experiencing excruciating economic hardships and when government is unable to neither pay the claims of NHIS Service Providers nor commit the needed resources to safeguard the lives of Ghanaians in the face of the global threat posed by the coronavirus.
  3. The time left for the 2020 general elections is woefully inadequate for the EC to procure a new system, train its staff, compile a new voters’ register, generate a provisional register, conduct an exhibition exercise, do de-duplication, and so on and so forth.
You would recall, that in the run-up to the 2012 General Elections when the current biometric register was introduced, the Afari Gyan-led EC ensured that all procurement processes were concluded and necessary agreements signed before the end of 2011. By the end of February 2012, a pilot registration exercise had been completed and a number of defects identified for further correction by the vendor.
We are in March 2020 and we are yet be informed by the Jean Mensah/Bossman Asare-led EC about the final award of the contract for procurement. This time constraint coupled with the ineptitude of the Jean Mensah/Bossman Asare-led EC such as was displayed during last year’s referendum and limited voters registration exercise, should give every well-meaning Ghanaian cause for concern because if care is not taken the entire Electoral process will be thrown into confusion and utter chaos.
Ladies and gentlemen of the media, these sound and well-reasoned arguments have been corroborated by over forty (40) independent Civil Society organizations including IMANI-AFRICA, CDD-GH, GII, IDEG, OccupyGhana, ASEPA, just to mention a few. Yet, the Jean Mensah-led EC remains adamant and continues to put forward baseless justifications for their entrenched stance to compile a new voters register for the 2020 general elections.
The baseless and mostly deceptive justifications that the EC has consistently canvassed include the following:
  1. That, the current BVRs and BVDs are obsolete and “have reached levels where they can no longer be repaired”, hence must be discarded.
  2. That, It is cheaper to procure an entirely new BVMS and compile a new voters register, than to update, maintain and/or upgrade the current system. And that, procuring a new BVMS will save the nation some $18 million.
  3. That, integration of an additional authentication layer of facial recognition is impossible on the current BVMS system due to its architecture.
  4. That, the current Biometric Voter Management System has a vendor-lock-in and that, the EC does not have the source code of the current system.
Ladies and Gentlemen, We have known all along that the EC’s claims are false and today, we will share with you and all the good people of Ghana, authentic and incontrovertible information from the manufacturer of the current BVRs and the company which supplied the current BVDs to EC. Simply put, we have in our possession evidence which vindicates our long-held position that the current BVMS system is fit for purpose and can be upgraded at a cost which is cheaper than replacing it with an entirely new system.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, On the 1st of January 2020, we sent an email to HSB Identification BV of Holland, the manufacturers of the current BVR equipment, seeking answers on whether or not the BVR equipment they supplied Ghana are obsolete; and whether or not the current BVRs can be upgraded to include facial recognition.
In a response to this email dated 2nd January 2020, Mr. Marcel Boogaard of HSB Identification B.V. indicated as follows;
  1. The current BVRs are not obsolete.
  2. Although the notebooks (computer operating system and software) of the current BVRs needs to be upgraded, components like the fingerprint scanners were very robust and fit for use.
  3. The enrollment software could easily be upgraded with facial recognition, a feature which has been incorporated in their new software release.
  4. The cost of upgrading the current BVR equipment with new functionalities will be far cheaper than replacing them with new equipment.
  5. HSB Identifications BV is willing to assist the EC carry out these upgrades upon request.
Also, on 26th February 2020, we sent another email to GenKey Africa, suppliers of the current BVDs to find out whether or not the 72,000 BVD equipment they supplied to Ghana’s Electoral Commission are obsolete; and whether or not they can be upgraded; and at what cost if Yes.
In a response to our Enquiry, the Managing Director/Projects Director of GenKey Africa, Mr. Harold Hermans indicated as follows;
  1. Contrary to the claims by the EC, the 72,000 BVDs they supplied Ghana are not obsolete.
  2. The BVDs the EC used for the 2019 District Level Elections worked perfectly.
  3. The BVDs are upgradeable and that, they have presented a proposal to the EC for the upgrade of same at a cost far cheaper than the cost of replacing the current equipment with new ones.
Friends from the media, Suffice it to say that the Jean Mensah-led EC has been telling well-packaged lies to Ghanaians; lies deliberately calculated to court public support for the compilation of a new voters register. These falsehoods, coupled with the raging controversy over corrupt tender processes for the supply of new BDV equipment and the announcement of a winner with a questionable record, clearly show that something fishy is going on at the EC. It is either Jean Mensah and her sponsors have a financial interest in the procurement of entirely new equipment or that the compilation of a new register is part of a rigging agenda for the benefit of NPP or both.
Ladies and gentlemen, We have shared with you authentic information we have received from the vendors of the existing machines. The contents are very revealing. Clearly, the EC has been caught red handed and we now await their reaction. Meanwhile, we remind Madam Jean Mensah that we are still waiting for the report of the so-called IT consultant which formed the basis of their decision to compile a new voters’ register. We dare her to publish that Consultant’s report if it indeed exists.
At this stage we wish to remind Jean Mensah and the Electoral Commission of the ingredients of the law on Willfully Causing Financial Loss to the State as brilliantly espoused by Late Justice Afreh of blessed memory in the famous quality grain case.
  1. Financial loss must have occurred. This means that the state spent more money than necessary on the project, whether or not the benefit of the project was more than sufficient to cover the cost.
  2. The presence of an act or omission. This means the failure to follow lawful processes or do due diligence on a multimillion-dollar project.
  3. There must be a direct link between the financial loss to the state and the act or omission of the public officer. In this case, it is sufficient to prove that the loss has been contributed to by the act or omission of the public officer and not necessarily the exclusive cause of the loss.
  4. That the public officer foresaw the consequences of her action and desired the consequences or took an unreasonable risk of its occurrence.
My advice to Aunty Jean is that, today you may feel confident with the support of the powers that be to embark on this action, but remember that those same powers will not be available to protect you on the day of reckoning, which is clearly fast approaching. CONCLUSION
Ladies and gentlemen, it is crystal clear from the facts we shared with you this afternoon, that Ghana does not need new voters register for the 2020 General Elections. The current biometric voters’ register is credible and bears all the essential features of an accurate and credible voters register. None of the concerns raised by the EC impugn or undermine the credibility of the voters register (data) in any way.
The manufacturers have spoken. The current tried and tested BVDs and BVRs are robust and efficient. We commend the manufacturers for the speedy response to our enquiry. Indeed our long held position has been strengthened by their ardent corroboration of the technical views expressed by our technical team and other CSOs in the country.
Distinguished friends from the media, the current BVMS has delivered five (5) credible national elections since 2012 and produced both an NDC and NPP President. All the technical concerns being expressed by the EC, even if true, can be addressed through a simple upgrade of the current equipment and software.
We wish to make the point clear to the Jean Mensah-led EC and their collaborators in the NPP, that this is not the usual binary “them” against “us” fight. This is about our nation Ghana, and the naked ripoff of our limited resources to satisfy the greed of a selected few in the Electoral Commission. It is also about the attempt by the Jean Mensah-led EC to set the stage for manipulating the 2020 General Elections for the benefit of the incumbent government.
The Inter-Party Resistance Against the New Voters Register is therefore determined, to do everything possible within the remits of the law to resist the devious machinations and reckless attempt by the EC to waste the public purse on a needless compilation of a new voters register, which has the potential to jeopardize our fledgeling democracy and the peace and stability we are enjoying as a country.
We will in the coming days, escalate our resistance to drum home further the voice of the people on this matter. It is a wasteful expenditure. No one can even guarantee success in compiling a new register especially when the economists are predicting a two to three months slow down in the global supply chain for equipment on account of the impact of the spread of coronavirus on the manufacturing sector. Besides, the hassles Ghanaians are going through to secure GhanaCard is enough. Ghanaians deserve a break from the tiring and time-consuming queues all within a short space of time. And let us also remind ourselves of the National Population Census due to begin soon.
We know without a shudder of doubt that we shall overcome the oppressor in this struggle. The people’s victory is assured, not only because we are ‘many’ and they are ‘few’, but particularly because power belongs to the people.
Long Live the Resistance!! Long live Ghana!!! Aluta Continua, Victoria Ascerta!!!

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