The Electoral Commission has clarified its decision to go in for a new biometric system and compile a new voters’ register ahead of the 2020 general elections.
According to the Commission, most of its current biometric devices are faulty adding that Ghana will incur extra cost in repairing the devices compared to procuring new ones.
The Commission also explained that the software being used to run the current biometric devices is “outdated and out of service.”
Addressing the media on Tuesday, EC Deputy Chairman in-charge of Operations, Mr Samuel Tettey, noted that the new biometric system the commission intends to procure will have a facial recognition technology to be deployed in cases where the devices are unable to verify fingerprints of voters.
“The Commission intends to reduce the increasingly high identification failure rate by using a new software to improve fingerprint capturing and image quality. The current biometric voter device and the biometric voter registration kits are challenged by their inability to do biometric fingerprints,” he said.
He disclosed that prior to the December 17 district level elections, the Commission spent close to GHc2 million repairing some of the faulty biometric devices.
He said the process was labour intensive and as such, they brought in more hands to help repair the faulty devices.
“This was a labour intensive and expensive process that spanned through several months. The Commission had to hire additional hands to get the device ready for the district level election. The Commission spent close to GHc2 million to repair the machines for the district level election. The amount used for replacing a faulty device cost more….compared to getting new ones,” Mr. Tettey added.
The Commission, therefore, finds it prudent to replace the kits with newer ones with improved technology to capture fingers that are dry due to ageing…The current architecture of the system is such that the facial recognition add-on is not possible. The new device will have facial recognition for those whose fingers cannot be verified. This will reduce the trend of manual verification which tends to affect the credibility of our elections,” the Deputy EC Chair explained.
In defence of new voters’ register
With regards to the rationale behind compiling a new voters’ register, Mr. Tettey argued that the current register is bloated.
“There is no doubt that the voters’ register is bloated. The bloat is that we have not developed an effective way of cleaning the register. The bloating increases the cost of organizing elections. This causes a lot of waste because the EC procures materials with regards to the number of registered voters. The number of registered voters exceeds actual voters,” he said.
The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has on countless occasions disagreed with the introduction of the new biometric system and a new register.
It is for this reason that its officers walked out of a meeting with the Electoral Commission on December 10, 2019.
Explaining why they left the meeting, the Director of Elections for the NDC, Elvis Afriyie Ankrah claimed that the parties had not discussed the issue exhaustively enough and had made the concerns known in previous IPAC meetings.
He recalled an invitation for emergency IPAC meeting on November 25 where the issue of a new register came up though it was not on the meeting agenda.
The parties were asked to bring experts to discuss the procurement for the new register at another emergency meeting on December 2.
“Our IT people together with other political parties raised counterfactuals and proved to them that there was no need for a new biometric register and we stated cogent reasons,” he told Citi News at the time.
EC’s new biometric register needless – Yaw Oppong
Legal Practitioner, Yaw Oppong had earlier described as needless the EC’s decision to procure a new biometric system.
Mr. Oppong believes the EC should channel its energy towards getting a credible system of verifying prospective voters rather than procuring a new biometric register.
“We should concentrate on getting one system of verification. Once we do that we will reduce this procurement. We need to ensure that we complete the registration process and avoid all these. I think it is so needless.”