The Electoral Commission (EC) boss, Jean Adukwei Mensa, has been caught in a case of double standard, as it has emerged that the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) under her leadership, advised the then head of the electoral body Dr. Kwadwo Afari Gyan, against compiling new voters register during election years.
Interestingly, she has eaten back her words since assuming the position and has since gotten approval for a total amount of GH¢1.3 billion, for the Commission’s activities this year, including the compilation of the a new register in an election year at a cost of over GH¢400 million.
The advice came on the back of the chaos that followed the 2012 elections which ended up in court. The advice which was part of the IEA’s proposed electoral reforms submitted to the electoral commission among other things, blamed the 8-month-long election petition on the mistrust that heralded the election as a result of the new voters’ register.
The report sighted by Starrfm.com.gh, mentioned activities, including “Biometric Voter Registration, Exhibition of Voters’ Register, Review and Creation of additional forty-five constituencies and seats in Parliament, etc etc. 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 2012 General Elections successfully.
“But 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”.
In the meantime, members of the Inter-Party Resistance Against the New Voter Register (IPRAN), have flooded the streets of Tamale last Saturday morning to demonstrate against the compilation of new voters register for election 2020.
Leading politicians, including Founder and leader of the All Peoples Congress (APC), Hassan Ayariga, Minority Leader in Parliament Haruna Iddrisu and the Member of Parliament (MP) for Tamale North, Alhassan Suhuyini, took part in the protest march dubbed ‘Tikusayi’.
The demonstration, which is the first of many to be held across the country is being led by the National Democratic Congress’s (NDC’s) National Chairman, Samuel Ofosu Ampofo and the National Chairman for the Peoples National Congress (PNC), Bernard Mornah.
The demonstrators converged on the Jubilee Park (Police Park) at 6 a.m. and marched through the Police runabout – Prisons Canteen – PK Gombila – Choggu runabout – Central Market – Aboaboo Traffic, before reconvening at the Police Park.
The IEA in 2012, had reminded the EC, to as a matter of urgency, publish with timelines its programmes and execute it expeditiously without delay.
The proposed reforms were put together after the IEA, met the political parties in two separate meetings sponsored by them.
The EC, now headed by Mrs. Mensah, has maintained it would compile a new register for the December polls, despite concerns from some major political parties and civil society groups, including the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), which has described the EC’s decision as unnecessary.
“I am not really convinced [with the reasons given so far, ]. So far as the recent election is concerned, it [current register] has not deteriorated so much. It has been quite consistent. This is not a big issue. It is not something that we cannot manage if we really want to have a clean register,” Team Leader for Elections at CDD Ghana, Rhoda Osei Afful, told Accra-based Citi FM.
Interestingly, General Secretary of the NDC, Johnson Asiedu Nketia, has stated that some GHS28 million of the EC’s estimated GHS390,265,186.44 budget for the compilation of a new register ahead of the 2020 polls, would be used to pay per diems of EC officials.
The total amount approved for the EC’s activities this year is GHS1.3 billion – GHS500 million less than the GH¢1.8 billion budgeted for the Commission in 2016 for the conduct of that year’s elections.
Out of the 390 million voter registration budget, over GHS161 million is expected to be spent on allowances of registration officials, while the procurement of materials is expected to cost over GHS 156 million.
In a recent press statement issued by the EC to justify the need for a new register, the Commission said: “It has been alleged that the EC is wasting public resources to compile new voters register. This accusation is also far from the truth.
In 2012, the new voters register cost the Commission GHS169,730,146.00. The 2014/2015 Limited Registration Exercise cost GHS 287,559.379.
In 2016, the Limited Registration Exercise cost GHS 487,998,714.00; it is important to note that the compilation of a new voter register in 2020 is estimated to cost GHS 390,265,186.44. Note that we are referring to a new register here.
The expenses stated above relate to cost of hiring registration officials and procurement of consumable registration materials. It’s worth mentioning that the current administration of the Commission is committed to judicious use of state resources for electoral activities”.
However, Mr Nketia told UTV’s ‘Mpu Ne Mpu’ programme hosted by Yaa Konama that, the Commission would spend close to GH¢1 billion on the registration exercise out of which GH¢28 million would be used to pay per diems.
Adducing reasons to buttress the NDC’s opposition to the EC’s planned compilation of a new register in May this year, Mr Nketia said: “A new register has the potential to affect the credibility of the election, because the EC itself has admitted that the current register is credible; so, if there is a credible register and you insist on replacing a credible register, what are you doing it for?”
The EC, Mr Nketia noted, has said it publicly in Parliament, at Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) meetings, and to the hearing of all Ghanaians after the recently-held district assembly election that the current register is a credible one, and, so, wondered why the EC, in his view, was rushing to compile a new one.
“Every election management person knows that assembly elections are the most difficult to manage because of the number of candidates. The assembly polls generated about 7,000 Assemblymen and women and 33,000 Unit Committee members.
“So, you’ve been able to use the current register to fill 40,000 vacancies, while the Biometric Verification Devices (BVDs) you described as ‘obsolete’ were 99 per cent efficient during the conduct of the same election – a rating confirmed by CODEO – so, if you [EC] are saying that the machines you declared ‘obsolete’ performed with 99 per cent efficiency and filled 40,000 vacancies, then what changed within two weeks that the same register and machines can’t be used to elect a President and 275 MPs? We don’t understand”, he said.
“Aside from that, we are wondering why the almost GH¢1 billion to be used for the compilation of a new register can’t be used to solve many problems confronting Ghanaians”, Mr Nketia pointed out.
The IPRNA is made up of nine political parties. Last Saturday’s demonstration in Tamale, Northern Region dubbed ‘Tikusayi’ demonstration is the first in a series of protests planned by the parties as part of efforts to fight the EC’s plan to compile a new register of voters ahead of the December 2020 polls.
Clad in red, the marchers chanted anti-government and anti-EC songs and slogans, as well as held placards with writings such as: ‘Nana Bring Back Nduom not register’, ‘Jean Mensa, your days are numbered’, ‘Mr President, why GH¢443 million’ and ‘Ghana needs a new President not new register’ among others.
In a statement issued ahead of Saturday’s demonstration, IRPNA said: “It would be recalled that at the press conference held on Monday, January 6, 2020, we canvassed several cogent reasons against the needless attempt by the Jean Mensa-led Electoral Commission to compile a new voters’ register for the 2020 elections and outlined a series of protest actions that we will be embarking on to reject same”.
The statement, signed by LOC Chairman, Alhaji Ibrahim Mobile, said: “Pursuant to that press conference, the IPRN, has been compelled to mobilize the ordinary taxpayer, whose resources are about to be plundered by the EC through this needless and wasteful new register venture, to hit the principal streets of Tamale to protest against this inglorious decision”.
Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, who spoke at the demonstration wondered why the EC, was bent on throwing away the current register of voters for a new one ahead of the 2020 polls.
“A credible voter register is a requirement for free and fair elections, so, what is wrong with our current register if it was currently used for some elections?” The Tamale South MP wondered.
“Is this not the same register that produced Nana Addo as President of Ghana? Should we question his legitimacy? Is that what the EC wants us to do? If he [President Akufo-Addo] thinks that he was not produced by a credible register, then he should advise himself.
“Is it also not the same register that was used for the creation of the new regions and for the district level elections, therefore, if the EC wants, they can revise and add the facial recognition part to it and not just throw the old one away.
“We are saying no to a new register because the time is inappropriate”, Mr Iddrisu noted.
Meanwhile, The Director of Elections at the EC, Dr Serebour Quarcoo, has said the election management body, will work with its own laid-down plans and programmes ahead of this year’s elections.
Dr Quarcoo, said the 1992 Constitution empowers the EC to undertake activities, including the compilation of a new electoral register to ensure that elections are free, fair and credible.
He, therefore, said the EC would not be swayed by what some people think is best for Ghana because “at the end of the day, people will judge us based on the decisions we took and not what people thought about us.”
Dr Quarcoo’s comment comes after a group of parties and individuals, including the main opposition NDC, called on the EC to abrogate its plans to compile a new register for the December elections.
Addressing a public forum on the new voter register in Accra on Thursday, January 9, 2020 organised by the group, the Managing Editor of the Insight, Mr Kwesi Pratt Jr., said: “Whatever we do, the 2020 elections is an important phase in our struggle. If that election is conducted freely and fairly, we must accept whoever is declared winner, but if that election is conducted in the ‘conie-conie’ way, we are beginning to see, we’ll not accept the result.
“Comrades and friends, this is not rabble-rousing, this is upholding the Constitution because the Constitution enjoins all of us to make sure that nobody employs any hanky-panky way in assuming power in this country, that’s a constitutional injunction”.
But Dr Quarcoo, told the Ghana Yen Som programme on Accra 100.5FM that: “The EC will go ahead with the plans to compile a new register.”
“We have our plans and programmes, people can decide to agree or disagree, but we believe our plans are good for Ghana’s elections.
“The Constitution gives us the mandate to compile a new register and, so, we will go ahead. At the end of the day, people will judge us based on the decision that we took and not what people thought about us, so, we’ll work with our plan and programme and not what people think.
“If what some people are calling for won’t help us, we won’t work with it,” he added.