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Feature Article of Friday, 30 March 2012

Columnist: Agbenyo, Samuel Kofi

The Challenges Of The Biometric Registration

I write to express my views on the challenges that are associated with the biometric registration currently on going. There are whole lot problems that are associated with the registration which could be put in to three categories. These are technical challenges created by the equipment such as the printer, the computer, the finger print scanner and the generator to power the machines for the exercise to go on smoothly. Most of these machines are faulty and are not performing efficiently. I do not whether the machines were tested to ascertain their efficacy level before they deployed to the field.
The other challenges are personnel problem. It is obvious that most of the personnel engaged as data entry clerks have little or no knowledge about the operation of the computer and associated equipment. The typing speed of some of the personnel leaves much to be desired. I do not know the criteria used in selecting them. One could see that most of them were given the job on silver platter. I happened to chanced on a chief of one of our communities as a registration officer. I am told at first he wanted to be a data entry clerk, but he could not type and at the end of the day, he was handed an R.O. What at all could have compelled a whole chief to take part in this exercise as RO? The obvious answer is money.
The last one is what I can term deliberate act to do political parties in and lack of good sense of judgment on the part of EC officials. The acts to do political parties in stem from the fact that, some of the district electoral officers are doing the biding of some political parties they support. Thus, they put in deliberate acts to frustrate other political parties by recruiting activist of the political parties they belong to as registration officers with a mandate. Since they know that polling is not their strong hold, they are doing everything to frustrate the potential voters not to register. They throw the rules set aside and are doing their own thing. While provision is made for two data entry clerks, you find only one at the centers. So, the data entry clerk at post has option than to break for some time and if those who reported there to register can not bear it, they go away without registering. In addition, I can not understand why generators would be given to registration centers to power the machines without adequate petrol. You get to the center and the officials are not working and the reason is that there is no fuel. How on earth can that be if EC knows that it was going to use ten days at a polling center. The mathematics is that if there are thousand five hundred potential voters at a polling station, and the registration officers are registering less than one hundred and fifty people a day, then there is clear likelihood that many people will not be registered at that polling station by the ten day before they move away to the next polling station.
The lack of good sense of judgment on the part of EC is clear on the ground. One can not understand for example why Dr. Afari Djan led commission will keep spare equipment at the regional offices, and direct that as and when an equipment breaks down, that equipment should be brought down to the region for replacement. Some of this registration centers are miles away from the district capitals and the same from the regional capitals. So, when an equipment breaks down and needs replacement, the registration center should hold on till that equipment is sent to the district capital and then to the region for replacement. This is a very bad arrangement, since most of the districts have only a vehicle at their disposal. It is this same vehicle that is being use to cart materials to the registration centers and the same time serves as the official car of the district EC officer. This is what we are being told by some of the district EC officers about the arrangement for replacing break down equipment. If this is not so, Dr. Afari Djan should come out and tell Ghanaians the truth about the arrangement for Ghanaians to know and see where the lapses is coming from.
I want to advise that the political parties stop playing the blame game and accusing the EC of being bias towards them. They should quickly call an IPAC meeting with EC to discuss how the challenges identified so far will be addressed. Civil society groups should also make their voices heard on how best the problem could be solved so that a level field is created to all persons who qualified to register. For the fact remains that before there is any free and fair election, it is starts with a credible voter’s register that is accepted by all actors in the election. We can not afford to down grade the fame we have gained before the international community when it comes to holding free and fair election. The hour to act is now.

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