Ghana’s Electoral Commission (EC) has not achieved anything with its “wasteful decision” to compile a new voter register, policy think tank IMANI Africa has said.
According to IMANI, “throwing $150 million at a non-existent problem and ending up at the same place you started from, is no achievement”.
IMANI’s observation comes after the EC applauded itself and said it was satisfied with the conduct of the voter registration exercise.
The EC said had it maintained the old register and not compiled a new one, the existing roll would have been bloated by 3 million after it had added more voters to the old document through a limited registration exercise.
It, thus, said the just-ended voter registration exercise has helped the election management body rid the resultant roll of 3 million ineligible extras.
But IMANI, in a statement signed by its president, Franklin Cudjoe, stated that “the country should reject the triumphalism of the EC, and deny it the approbation it is so desperately seeking,” because, in IMANI’s view, “throwing $150 million at a non-existent problem and ending up at the same place you started from, is no achievement.”
Citing a number of reasons for which it believes the voter registration exercise has been a wasteful venture, IMANI called for a detailed independent asset audit of the EC to account for the $60 million of equipment procured between 2016 and 2019 that the current EC claims have suddenly gone obsolete.
It said if this, among others, are not done, then “a dangerous precedent has been set and any future EC can use any reason to embark on a new mass re-registration exercise”.
Below is IMANI’s statement:
IMANI Alert: The EC is Back to Square One but the Country Should Move Forward.
1. In this statement, IMANI will go over the claims and the evidence step by stepto kill this pernicious ideaof “malicious bloating”once and for alland to establish firmly and clearly that absolutely NOTHING has been achieved by the wasteful decision to compile a new register. A dangerous precedent has been set and any future EC can use any reason to embark on a new mass re-registration exercise. The courts having vacated their responsibility to insist on administrative rationality would not be able to help either.
2. $150 million of our very scarce resources have been wasted to remove the names of dead people, who cannot be impersonated because of the biometric system, instead of the $1.5 million which would have more than doubled the capacity of the Births and Deaths Registry to improve records and automate notifications to the EC.
3. What about minors? Nothing implemented in this mass registration exercise can be said to be more effective in removing minors than in previous registration exercises.
4. About 40% of registrants used guarantors and virtually all of the remaining registrants used Ghana Cards. But recall that over 80% of Ghana Card registrants used guarantors too. In short, 90% or more of registrants are ultimately on this new Roll because of guarantors. A system whereby people merely state that in their belief a person is above 18 years old and is a Ghanaian cannot be an improvement in any way.
5. What is worse, current court decisions have merely served to wound the only institution whose true mandate is to report on birthdates and deaths, the two data points crucial to removing minors and dead people from the Roll.
6. The ruling party’s only basis for supporting the mass re-registration was because of the NPP’s long-held belief that through that process they could eliminate large numbers of ineligibles, especially foreigners, maliciously smuggled onto the register to distort electoral outcomes. Senior members of the party expressed an expectation to see about 14 million total registered voters by the end of the exercise, whilst the EC first set a target of 13 million, which it then revised to 15 million. One leading strategist cited the case of Ketu South’s 140,000 registered voters, for example. Our view is that these fears were cynically exploited by the Electoral Commission to pursue a “procurement-focused” objective which had little to do with “cleaning up the register”. All the data does indeed point to such fears about malicious bloating being unfounded.
7. Ketu South’s registered voter numbers have actually increased at a pace slower than the overall national average. In 2000, the constituency had about 98,000 registered voters on its roll. Today it has a little over 140,000. This is a “mere” 40% increase compared to the nearly 70% increase over the same period nationally. Or, to compare like to like, take Fomena, Ashaiman and Bekwai, which have all seen a 60% increase over the same period. In fact, the entire Volta region (now plus Oti) has seen a less than 40% increase in their registered voter numbers compared to the 50% number seen in Ashanti or the even more spectacular 60% recorded in Central Region over the two-decade period.
8. We will urge the ruling party, in particular, to take a careful look at the outcomes of the registration and change its posture to data analysis presented by independent Civil Society Organisations (CSOs). It should discover that regions where it performed well in the 2016 elections such as Ahafo, Western North and Eastern have all seen noticeable declines. Western North, for instance, seems to have experienced the steepest fall. Meanwhile, the most competitive regions such as Bono and Bono East, Greater Accra, and the regions in the northern and upper political zones of the country have seen perceptible increases. Strongholds of the two major parties, Volta and Ashanti appear to have maintained roughly the same numbers. All of these facts are consistent with an analysis that discounts the conspiracy theories of malicious bloating and affirm the typicality and ordinariness of the current situation.
9. Way Forward
A. So where does this leave the country? First and foremost, the country should reject the triumphalism of the EC, and deny it the approbation it is so desperately seeking. Throwing $150 million at a non-existent problem and ending up at the same place you started from is no achievement.
B. The rest of the country should not feel secure about the electoral process until the following has been done: A detailed independent asset audit of the Electoral Commission to account for the 60 million dollars of equipment procured between 2016 and 2019 that it claims have suddenly gone obsolete.
C. Deep and complete reconciliation with the Opposition Parties and CSOs whose calls for accountability it has shunned so far. Failure to patch up and open up to scrutiny by all stakeholders will only deepen the rancour, including the ethnocentric tensions, that marred the integrity of the electoral process in many places.
E. A serious national dialogue about strategies to fix the identification and register cleaning issues that remain wholly unresolved due to continued neglect despite the expenditure of tens of millions of dollars of this country’s hard-earned resources over the last decade on the electoral system.
F. Tackle the “Procurement Raj” that has taken hold of the EC and is hell-bent on milking the country at all cost through scheme after scheme.
G. For the sake of our democracy, we hope this country shall take these matters seriously.