General News Mon, 10 Mar 2008

CPP Urges Capacity Building for Electoral Commission

Accra – March 10, 2008

The Convention People’s Party (CPP), as a major stakeholder in Ghana’s evolving democracy, has followed with keen interest recent developments and controversies surrounding the voter register compiled by the Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana. We view the subsequent debate and emergency meeting of the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) with the EC as evidence of the resilience of our young democracy and our ability and desire to confront national problems with a commonality of purpose. We hope and pray that all stakeholders would continue to stay on this path of reason and dialogue in the interest of political stability, social cohesion and national development. Along with the other stakeholders, the CPP is indeed disturbed by the various deficiencies that have been found in the voter register. There appears to be data inconsistencies across time (between 2004 and 2006) and disparities between data from the EC’s headquarters and at least one of the 10 regions of Ghana, namely the Ashanti Region. These are serious issues that warrant a thorough investigation and appropriate remedial actions. In this regard, the CPP fully supports the call by the EC for the various stakeholders to work together and investigate the discrepancies and find solutions to them.

We should allow the investigation to establish whether the data discrepancies were the result of deliberate manipulation of figures by some staff of the EC or genuine errors resulting from a weakened capacity of the EC to do its job. Pending the results of the investigation, we do believe, however, that as patriotic Ghanaians we should exercise the utmost restraint and refrain from making statements that impugn the integrity of the EC and by extension sow the seeds of political instability in the future. It is in our common interest to exercise such restraint and help strengthen the integrity of the EC, because a discredited EC is a threat to all of us, irrespective of which party wins the December 2008 elections.

The CPP also believes that the crisis over the voter register should serve as an opportunity for us to engage in a wider public debate over how we, as a nation, provide resources to the EC to facilitate the discharge of its duties in accordance with Constitutional Instruments 12 and 15, PNDCL 284 and Act 574, all of which enjoin the EC to build its capacity to address the demands of not only political parties but also ordinary citizens.

In this regard, the available evidence shows that as a nation we have not done enough to strengthen the EC’s capacity to do its work.

For example, of the total ¢401.7 billion that was budgeted by government for the EC between 2000 and 2006, only ¢292.6 billion, or 72.8%, was disbursed; the disbursement rates for “services” and “investments” over the same period were even lower at 49.0% and 46.0%, respectively.

The shortfalls in services and investments are particularly worrying because these are precisely the resources that the EC needs to build the technical capacity, such as the upgrading of staff skills and the purchase of equipment like vehicles and computers, to carry out its work. When those resources are not available, the Commission’s ability to fulfil its mandate is clearly impaired.

For example, in 2000, an election year, government’s disbursement for EC’s investments was 22.3% lower than budget, although disbursements for services exceeded budget by 5.8% that year. In 2004, however, disbursements for both investments and services were 83.2% and 66.0%, respectively, lower than budget, according to data from the government’s budget statements and the Comptroller and Accountant General’s Department. It is nearly impossible for any organisation, least of all an electoral commission, to operate as effectively as one would want it with such limited resources.

Worse, the large shortfalls in disbursements have historically been followed, in the year after elections, by steep reductions in government funding to the EC. In 2001 and 2005, for example, inflation-adjusted disbursements from government to the EC fell by 69.8% and 63.1%, respectively. The overall picture that emerges from an analysis of the financial profile of the EC is one of an organisation that has been severely starved of critical resources over the years.

In the event, the EC has been forced to turn to donors for critical investments. We find this worrisome for two reasons: (1) Donor funding is seldom enough to make up for the gap created by government under-funding, leaving the EC with a sub-optimal capacity to do its work, and (2) Continued dependence on donors for national elections creates room for unwarranted, sometimes dangerous, intrusion into our national affairs by aid-agency bureaucrats who are not accountable in any way to the Ghanaian electorate. It is worth noting that one of the contributory factors to the recent post-elections violence in Kenya was a press conference called by European Union “observers” who effectively incited the Kenyan public against the state, in addition to putting undue pressure on that country’s elections authority to do things that the authority felt were premature or dangerous to Kenya’s interests. As we prepare for our own elections, it is important that we take a careful look at the role of donors, if any, so that they do not end up subverting our democracy, wittingly or unwittingly, as they did in Kenya. Endmore

The CPP believes that if we are the independent and proud people that we claim to be, then we must be prepared to wholly finance those things that we value and deem essential to our pride and national survival. And that must necessarily include the national elections that we hold every four years. It is the least that we can do for ourselves after 51 years of independence, and it is the surest way to live out the declaration of the founder of our nation, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, that “the Black man is capable of managing his own affairs” – certainly capable of financing his own elections.

In this regard, the CPP proposes the following:

• Government should ensure timely and adequate release of funds to the EC in 2008 to facilitate their work, including the speedy preparation of the voter register.

• This should aid the EC to build the necessary capacity to collect and manage elections-related data in a transparent and credible manner. To achieve this, government must provide the resources to enable the EC make the voter register available for verification by the various political parties at least three months before the 2008 elections. In 2004, the register was made available for verification only one month before the elections, making it virtually impossible for political parties to verify the register before the elections.

• We propose that each financial release to the EC by government should be published as part of a wider process of promoting transparency in our democratic institutions.

• We also call on the EC to deepen transparency by discussing and publishing for the benefit of the public the methodology for collecting, vetting, compiling, storing and managing elections-related data. This is important for building public confidence in the Commission.

• As a long-term measure for capacity building, we suggest that government should do the following:

o Strengthen the independence of the EC by giving it financial autonomy to procure goods and services faster than is allowed under the current procurement law

o Release monies for elections no later than the 3rd quarter of the year before presidential or parliamentary elections.

o Provide adequate and timely funds between elections to ensure smooth capacity building for the EC. This should reduce the huge financial burden placed on the national budget in election years, such as the nine-fold increase in budgetary allocations to the EC from GH¢4,178,000 in 2007 to GH¢36,803,055 in 2008.

• The EC should develop a self-computing template that gives all political parties tamper-proof access to the same election-related data between elections and during elections. A CD ROM is not as fool-proof as is commonly believed. The CPP is prepared to share its in-house expertise with the EC to develop such a template.

Forward Ever! Backward Never!

Long Live Ghana

Source: CPP