Policy think-thank IMANI-Africa has exposed the Electoral Commission (EC) where about 40 per cent of the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) machines are the old owned used in previous elections contrary to the official narration that the EC was acquiring new BVRs for compiling the new voters’ register.
As part of its arguments for pushing the government to cough up almost GHC 400 million for the new voters’ register, the EC had claimed its new BVR machines will deploy facial recognition features for better data capture of voters.
However, IMANI’s tour of registration centres show that there is a “near absence of the facial recognition technology touted” by the Election Management Body (EMB).
This means that the EC is not giving Ghanaians taxpayers value for the staggering budget for the controversial new register.
The EC had claimed that the existing biometric equipment were obsolete, dating to 2011. It also alleged that the absence of facial biometric capacity in the existing machines rendered them less effective and accurate.
“The equipment that was so bad it had to be thrown away to make way for brand new multimillion-dollar stuff in use in full view of the public and media,” Bright Simmons, and Executive Director of IMANI wrote in a statement issued today.
“It is important that the record shows clearly that the EC’s actions were morally, ethically and administratively irresponsible. It must do so because this shall not be the last time a governmental entity will attempt to use raw power to push a cause so antithetical to the values of sound governance that they leave in their wake dangerous precedents that will continue to haunt the nation.”
The EC had questionably contracted Thales, a French weapons manufacturer with operations in biometric infrastructure, to provide Ghana with the needed equipment for compiling the new voters’ register, however, these equipment were never delivered as most of the machines being used by the EC are the old BVR machines it claims were obsolete.
“The EC was unable to bring in enough Thales’ equipment for the registration due to the rushed and shambolic procurement exercise. So the very equipment that was said to be obsolete and had to be tossed aside to create a procurement opportunity worth tens of millions of dollars had to be mobilised for the registration exercise,” the statement from IMANI revealed.
“Readers will observe that in many polling stations in poorer neighbourhoods, almost all the BVR (biometric voter registration) equipment in use were the same HSB-compatible HP and Dell ones that were used in the last limited voters’ registration exercise in 2019. Our estimate is that at least 40% of current equipment being used for the registration exercise is made up of old BVRs, some with the Neurotechnology-provided software.”
According to IMANI, the only reason the EC is able to conduct the current new registration exercise is because they had to rely heavily on the BVR machines they were supposed to have discarded. “The old BVRs and BVDs are the only reason the EC was able to conduct the mass re-registration as the rushed procurement could not deliver the full set of machines,” Bright Simmons wrote.
The EC’s eagerness to compile a new voters’ register despite massive resistance to the move by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and despite the fact that it had recently relied on the old register is bastardising to conduct three major elections between 2018 and 2019.
Critics are arguing that the EC’s motivation is rooted in a clandestine plan to manipulate the elections in favour of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP).