The People’s National Convention (PNC) has kicked against plans by the Electoral Commission to compile a new voter’s register for the December polls.
The EC believes the integrity of the 2020 polls could be undermined if a new roll and a new Biometric Voter Management System are not put in place.
In a statement, the EC said: “The current kits and solutions are obsolete: They are End-Of-Life (EOL) and can no longer be supported by their Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM). The immediate past vendors of the solution proposed that the Commission replace all the equipment and also upgrade the Data Centre. This was rehashed by the Consultants we engaged to audit our systems
“It is important to emphasise that whether we compile a new voters’ register or not, there is the need to acquire new equipment to replace the obsolete kits acquired in 2011. It is, therefore, important to delink the procurement of equipment and kits from the registration exercise. We state again that whether or not the EC compiles a new register or conducts a limited registration exercise, we will procure new kits to replace the obsolete ones. Additionally, we will acquire a new data centre with robust state-of-the-art services and equipment at the cost of 6 Million Dollars instead of upgrading the existing one at the cost of 15 million United States Dollars as proposed by the previous vendors.
“Again, we are replacing the existing software with a new one to enable us own and control our systems, unlike the previous situation where the solution was owned, controlled and managed by the vendors.
“There is no doubt that the voter register is bloated. The bloat is because we have not developed an effective way of cleaning the register. The bloated register increases the cost of our elections. The Commission always procures election materials based on the number of registered voters. This causes a lot of waste as the number of registered voters exceeds the actual voters.
“Considering the above challenges, the Commission has come to the conclusion that it will be cheaper and prudent to acquire new BVRs and BVDs which are robust and user-friendly than to upgrade old and obsolete ones. Again, the Commission will go ahead with the preparation of a new biometric voters’ register based on the reasons provided earlier”.
The PNC in a statement said it is not convinced having studied thoroughly the reasons backing the decision to compile a new voter’s register.
The statement said the following:
“On the issue of the current voters register purportedly being bloated, the EC failed to convince the PNC as to the grounds for which such argument is being made.
“The PNC is of the position, however, that should we even acknowledge without admitting that the EC’s assertion is right, the best approach in dealing with a bloated register should not be to discard it and go in for a totally new register.
“On the issue of the current Biometric Verification Device (BVD) being obsolete, the PNC acknowledge that two sub-issues were raised by the EC is that the country is confronted with either to upgrade the machine or to purchase a new one, and these were considered in the light of
1. financial cost to the state,
2. the BVM failing to verify, hence the need to resort to a manual verification in some instances.
“On the first issue, an independent assessment of the financial cost has been made by the PNC and we posit that it will make economic sense and will be a prudent way to use the taxpayer’s money should the EC acquire a new BVD other than upgrading the current one. However, the PNC is not convinced by the reasons given by the EC regarding manual verification. The PNC would want to state that since the EC recorded only 0.64% of voters as having experienced such a challenge in the recently ended DLE, we project that less than 2% will experience such a challenge in the general election. In any case, these were not disenfranchised, as manual verification is legitimate. That notwithstanding, it will be better to avoid an unforeseen circumstance rather than waiting for avoidable instances.
“Thirdly, and as argued above, the PNC’s position is that our country does not need a new voter’s register for the 2020 elections. The PNC believes that a compilation of a new voter’s register should not be embarked on since the current register can take the nation into a successful 2020 election. Again, a compilation of a new register will be a conduit to disenfranchise some qualified citizens.”