The trouble with hot current issues is that once other new hot current issues come after, the previous tend to be pushed under the carpet even if the issues that made them hot and current at the time remain unresolved. It is often then left to persons of a dogged disposition to continue to pursue seemingly lost or forgotten causes in order to make right those unresolved issues.

In our African culture, it is impolite for a child to go asking for more after he has been given some morsel. The credo therefore is: ‘sufficient is enough!’ However, there are some things which are just too important to pussy foot around or be shy about fighting for. If it is that important, you will not be contented with ‘half a loaf’, you will pursue it until you get the full measure! Some might meekly contend that ‘what more do you want after the EC has yielded to including verification to the intended biometric registration exercise?’ Well, the answer is: ‘No more than a rational demand for some very simple standards, as highlighted hereunder!’ Therefore, like the infamous Oliver Twist, I am back for more – from the Electoral Commission!

Courtesy also requires that you acknowledge every little grant to a wish/demand of yours. Therefore, I would like to say, on behalf of all previous agitators, ‘thank you’ to the Electoral Commissioner, Dr Afari Gyan for yielding – albeit inexplicably reluctantly – to incessant domestic and international calls for him to include verification to the intended biometric registration exercise. At least the onus now lies with the ruling NDC government’s Finance Minister to provide the required funds for it, although the NDC’s stance on verification, as expressed by their General Secretary, Asiedu Hketia, is well known, and that is, they are against this voter fraud bursting equipment!

Now that the issue of verification is settled – at least on the part of the EC – the other questions on the biometric registration previously posed and remain unanswered, still need addressing. Therefore, Oliver Twist-like, this writer, on behalf of other interested parties, is back seeking answers to those questions. To those who were wondering why all the fuss about verification, well, other than the obvious benefits of curtailing multiple voting by an individual who somehow managed to multi-register even with the biometric registration, verification would really come into its own when you factor in the inherent ‘weaknesses’ of the biometric registration equipment Ghana’s Electoral Commission has inexplicably opted to acquire.

Present writer shares good company with those who pointed out the issues surrounding the sub-standard quality of the preferred equipment to be acquired by the EC for the biometric registration exercise. You see, with the low pixels of the cameras contracted to be purchased – 2 mega pixels – as opposed to the international standard of 10 mega pixels; also with the EC’s preferred finger print equipment capturing only 500 dpi [dots per inch] as opposed to the international standard of 1500 dpi, it begs the question why the EC would sign a contract for such sub-standard equipment for the register, and subsequently – until recently – opt not to have a verification equipment which could then restrict the shortcomings of the register! However, with no certainty that verification would be provided in spite of the EC’s demand, as the final funding decision lies with the NDC’s Finance Minister, the relevance in demanding the upgrade of the registration equipment, viz, the camera mega pixels and the fingerprint equipment remains valid!

As an example, Kenya, having learnt the bitter lesson of a disputed election with the attendant massacres, has now adopted biometric registration and verification, employing a reputable and proven provider, CODE, and acquiring high to international standard 8 -10 mega pixel cameras and 1200 dpi fingerprint capture equipment. They have also acquired battery operated verification equipment for polling day, which makes a nonsense of the NDC General Secretary, Asiedu Nketia’s lame excuse for not backing verification, as that electricity cuts or the lack of it in rural areas would make verification non-implimentable! Now this is a country, Kenya, serious about its foray into a fraud free 2012 elections, utilizing the most acceptable international standard biometric equipment to carry it through! Wise after the fact, though, a very painful fact! A lesson worth learning, I’d say!

Once again, I repeat, ‘a thing worth doing, is worth doing well!’ Can anyone seriously put a price on democracy and the avoidance of electoral disputes and its concomitant ramifications? Come again Mr Deputy Electoral Commissioner responsible for Electoral Affairs, David Kanga and Amadu Sulley, the EC’s Head of Research both of whose political neutrality is highly questionable! It is in the remit of both of theses officials to look into, recommend equipment types and system specifications, before a contract is awarded to short listed companies. Indeed, they do the short listing of the bidding equipment providers. They recommended this sub-standard equipment and chose the supplier! Was there the usual kickback or backhanders that influenced this obvious poor choice? Or was there a more devious political motive? Following Amadu Sulley subsequently attending a meeting and advising NDC executives not to back verification, – which is now moot – the case for high quality standard image and fingerprint capture equipment cannot be overemphasized.

The Head of Public Affairs at the EC, Mr Christian Owusu Parry announced on Wed 7th December 2011 that an EC committee was looking into the technical details of the acquisition process for the biometric registration equipment, intended to be purchased by February 2012. To this end, I am hereby urgently calling upon the Electoral Commissioner, Dr Afari Gyan, to revisit the contract awarding the supply of the cameras and fingerprint equipment, to ensure an UPGRADE OF THE QUALITY TO AT THE VERY LEAST, THE ACCEPTED INTERNATINAL STANDARDS! To wit, I dare suggest that the EC committee looking into the technical details for the acquisition, should not concern itself only with the technical details of acquiring equipment that has dubiously previously been agreed, but rather, more importantly, seek a technical upgrade to the preferred equipment! The EC cannot pretend that they have either been cost efficient or prudent in opting for this substandard equipment! This is a technology which is as good as your investment in it. You pay cheap, you get sub-standard equipment which presents fuzzy images and a less than accurate reading of either facial or fingerprint captures, still allowing electoral fraudsters to ply their trade.

Both Dr Afari Gyan and Mr Owusu Parry have called for vigilance on election day. That is good. However, vigilance should not be a copout for investing in substandard equipment which should otherwise on their own be a sufficient preventative tool against electoral fraud!

Without belabouring the point, the call is repeated, Mr Electoral Commissioner, to revisit the contract for the purchase of the preferred sub-standard biometric registration equipment and to ensure an upgrade to those included in the contract with the shortlisted supplier. The case for justifying this call has been eloquently made. Your reputation is on the line to not only present a free and fair 2012 elections, but also be seen to be interested in presenting a free and fair 2012 elections! This is only achievable through the provision of the most up-to-date, efficient and internationally accepted standard systems and equipment for the polls. The ball is once again in your court. Thank you sir!

By: RICHARD DOMBO DIEDONG

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