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Opinions Tue, 14 Jan 2020

The case of a new biometric register: Who knew Jean Mensa would come to the kingdom for such a time as this

JEAN MENSAH NEW Jean Mensah, EC Chair

Ghana's electoral processes have undergone several reforms since 1992, as a result of a series of submitted and implemented reform proposals from various stakeholders over the years.

These reforms have been carried out with a view to fine-tune the electoral processes and ensure that the issues of previous elections are addressed for better election management in future. Several such reform proposals were submitted to the Electoral Commission by the end of 2013 which was interestingly spearheaded by Mrs. Jean Mensah’s IEA.

An Electoral Reforms Committee was put together by the IEA, of which Dr. Ransford Yaw Gyampo was a member and a Coordinator of the IEA-Ghana Political Parties Programme that submitted the proposals to the EC together Asiedu Nketiah, Mac Manu, Alhaji Ramadan etc. The committee's mandate among others was to review all the proposal submitted by the various political parties.

One of the proposals that was unanimously accepted and adopted by all the politcal parties and the EC is that during election year the EC should NOT embark on ANY serious work or program

The electoral commission wrote back to the Electoral Reform Committee that they have accepted almost 90% of the proposal including the one that says that the EC must NOT embark on ANY serious programs or work in an election year.

In furtherance to that, the Electoral Reform Committee( I must emphasise, spearheaded by the IEA led by Mrs Jean Mensah) agreed with all the stakeholders and the EC as a matter of urgency to publish with timelines its programmes and execute them expeditiously.

In that report compiled by Jean Mensah’s IEA, mentioned programs such as compilation of a new register, Biometric Voter Registration, Exhibition of Voters’ Register, Review and creation of additional constituencies and seats in Parliament, etc etc. as programs that shouldn’t be done in an election year.

The report also stated that although, On 24th March 2012, which was an election year, the Electoral Commission commenced a process to compile a new voter register for the upcoming 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections in Ghana which was largely successful at the end, but the election itself in that year was evidently characterized by some problems and unavoidable challenges. No wonder, we ended up at the Apex Court.

After eight-month election petition, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition by the NPP and upheld John Mahama of the NDC as the validly elected president.

More importantly, the ruling also exposed some flaws in the electoral process that could not be glossed over in the quest for free and fair elections. The compilation of a New Register in that election year was a big lesson for us hence the collective proposals by all the political parties together with the IEA’s Reform Electoral Committee not to burden the EC with any intensive programs such as compilation a new register.

Needless to say, these activities undoubtedly overstretched the capacity of the Electoral Commission to successfully undertake and accomplish all its pre-election programmes and still organize the 2020 General Elections successfully.

The big question that the Jean Mensah’s IEA asked was: “ why should all these activities be undertaken at the time when key actors in our electoral process, particularly the Political Parties were very busy touring all parts of the country campaigning? Why should we sit down and wait till the eleventh hour?

“Things done in a rush are susceptible to costly mistakes. Indeed such crash activities are a recipe for distrust, tension and the raising of unnecessary alarms over issues that could ideally pass without many qualms from the key stakeholders.”

God being so good, today, Mrs. Jean Mensah is Boss of the Electoral Commission. As the book of Esther put it succinctly, “who knows she has come to the kingdom for such a time as this, to save Jews(Ghanaians) from destruction( violence).

What is more striking about this particular year of our elections are the activities which the EC must consider:

1. This year in March, Ghana shall be organising its decennial Population and Housing Census (PHC) this year. Government has told us that It is every individual's civic duty to support the 2020 Census because correct and accurate data will assist our national, metropolitan, municipal and district authorities to make effective plans for the country's educational, health and other socio-economic services.

2. This same year, the National ID Card registration exercise is ongoing and it is meant to collect biometric data from Ghanaian citizens.

3. This same year, around April, the NPP are going to conduct their parliamentary primaries for their sitting MP’s. In fact, they have already started campaigning.

4. From May to June the EC wants to compile a new voters register.

5. The EC has to enforce ROPAL this year per the court ruling. The ROPAL committee or the EC MUST go overseas to register all voters.

Remember that when the PHC finishes its census, all things being equal in May, 2020, it is very possible that the EC will be mandated to create additional constituencies per the results of the census.

So whilst the EC is busily embarking on new voters register in May, they have to also start working on creating these new constituency.

Now when the constituencies are created, the political parties have to go there and campaign to elect their parliamentary candidates which the same EC has to supervise those elections.

If this is not recipe for disaster, then I don’t know what it is.

What baffles me is this:

In 2017 and 2018, parliament approved an amount of 171 and 202 million Ghana cedis for maintenance of data center and Repair of BVDs respectively, but the EC did not execute those task.

Why would the EC ask for money to repair and maintain our BVD’s and Date Center and not do it although the money was given to them, and come back in 2020 and make a case that we need a new voter register because BVD’s are not functioning properly?

I just can’t get it.

In 2012 before the EC took the decision to compile a new register, we have conducted our population census in 2010. The results of the census data has been officially published. We know how the national population figures, we know how many Ghanaians are registrable and we know how many Ghanaians are under age of 18.

How do we now compile a new register in 2020 when we don’t know the official population figures?

How do we reconcile the data differences of the EC and PHC?

Which data must we accept as the official data when there is a difference?

I can’t think far ooooo!

As for me, I always pray for Mrs. Jean Mensah, the same woman who championed all these reforms and now she is in the helm of affairs.

God grant her more wisdom and knowledge.

Fill her hearts with true humility and make her cherish fearless honesty.

Above all, help her to resist ‘oppressors' rule!

By: Solomon Nii Amarh Amarteifio

Freelance Journalist

Email: mantsebiniiamarh@gmail.com

Columnist: Solomon Nii Amarh Amarteifio
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