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Dr Afari-Gyan - EC Boss and Matthew Opoku Prempeh
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Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), dropped a bombshell at an Institute of Economic Affairs forum in Accra yesterday when he said that the commission has not decided yet to factor the issue of verification into the impending biometric voters’ registration exercise.

“I cannot tell you we are going to conduct verification exercise of the biometric voters’ register when I am not assured that we will get the money for it,” Dr Afari-Gyan said.

Addressing participants including representatives of political parties on the biometric voters’ register, the EC chairman’s explanation on how the commission was going to handle the biometric registration appeared to have made most of the participants, particularly New Patriotic Party (NPP) members, nervous.

He said for the EC to factor verification of the system into account, it would need about $50million for that alone.

“We are talking about an estimated 23,000 polling stations and for the system to be effective, we would need back-up equipment for registration and when we made the cost assessment we are getting figures around $50million.”

He said the cost was different from the GH¢80million or so that the EC would be using for the biometric registration exercise.

The EC boss said as it was now, verification of whole system was not part of the exercise which he announced would take place in the first quarter of 2012.

“The biometric registration exercise is doable but we should not confuse it with verification. So long as it is done in a timely manner we will use the biometric register for the 2012 general elections.

“Verification is not registration issue that is why I prefer not to talk about it. It is a legitimate concern but it is not part of the exercise,” he said.

He added, “We are already in discussion on this issue of verification with the political parties and I do not understand why my nephew (in reference to Dr. Matthew Opoku-Prempeh of the NPP) is raising this issue here.”

Dr. Afari-Gyan said the biometric process alone could not guarantee free, fair, transparent and successful election, adding, “Biometric would not come to supplant the way we conduct elections. That is why I keep advising the political parties to be vigilant on election days.”

He said it would be untenable for anybody to suggest that the EC could request for biometric registration equipment from other countries, particularly Nigeria, noting, “Equipment from other countries have been configured to suit their systems and it would be difficult to use them here.”

He jokingly said, “It would be better to drink it tot by tot and ensure that everything is done properly than to do it in a haphazard manner.”

When Justice Francis Emile Short, former Commissioner of CHRAJ, who chaired the forum, opened the floor for questions and suggestions, participants expressed concern about how the EC was going to ensure that the system was verifiable.

Professor Mike Ocquaye, 2nd Deputy Speaker of Parliament, who was on the high table, said the whole biometric registration exercise should be verifiable for the process to be complete.

He said once the whole process involved money, it was up to every stakeholder to get involved to ensure that “we find the money to finance the exercise”, adding, “Without a verifiable mechanism, we are likely to conduct half-baked exercise”.

Dr. Ahmed Gedel, a member of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), called for open and frank discussion on the biometric registration exercise.

He said, “We are not yet at the level of verification so let us all ensure that we get a credible voters’ register.”

Source: William Yaw Owusu/D-Guide

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