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Opinions of Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Columnist: Elizabeth Koomson

Disaster looms as EC readies to compile register?

The Electoral Commission of Ghana has been cautioned to tread cautiously as it gets set to begin piloting a registration exercise next week ahead of the compilation of the new voters register later in June.

Political watchers, including the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers oblivious of previous experiences is concerned about the timeframe in the wake of the COVID -19 pandemic and reports about yet to arrive equipment or as some may simply put it, mobile registration workstations (MRWs) needed for the exercise.

The concerns stem from recent experience by the National Identification Authority, NIA whose timetable was seriously disrupted by technical hitches at the onset of the mass registration in 2017, which was later tried again in June 2018, with the associated embarrassment in Parliament when the machines to be used to capture data of MPs failed.

The NIA eventually started in phases from Greater Accra in April 2019 and as of march 2020, when it was compelled to suspend the registration in the Eastern region, because of COVID-19 restrictions, a total of 7,091,769 Ghanaians had been registered with less than five million cards issued.

This covers a period of almost one year.

Experts project that if all the machines which are yet to be exported even arrive today in Ghana, the EC would do what is called the Site Acceptance Test (SAT). Unfortunately Technical Teams always find challenges with new systems during SAT

If what is called the Factory Acceptance Test (FAT) is taken out assuming the EC may have sent their team to the vendor's company to do that already (which is impossible because of Coronavirus), there will still be serious challenges in view of the estimated 16.5 million eligible voters the Commission projects will be captured in the new electoral roll for the December 7, 2020 elections.

The Site Acceptance Test (SAT)? "SAT is a testing technique performed to determine whether or not the software system has met the required specifications. The main purpose of this test is to evaluate the system's compliance with the business requirements and verify if it has met the required criteria for delivery to end-users".

Experts say it will take the EC two to three working days to complete the SAT, especially in the case of a complex system like what EC is proposing to use. The EC technical team is going to detect challenges with the system, and they will need to communicate that to the vendors. Depending on the problem, it may take days for the challenge to be solved.

If the vendor solves all challenges, the next thing is for the EC to do a pilot of the new system. That is what I call, the real testing of the system to its new environment and from my experience in all the two systems used at NIA, they come with serious challenges that can take months to be fixed.

For example, in 2008, the NIA had to postpone the start of mass registration several times because of issues that came out from the pilot. It was during the piloting that it was detected that the batteries for the MRWs were not producing the required voltage. It took several two months before that issue was fixed.

Technical experts say it will take not less than a month before the new Biometric Registration devices to be deployed in the field. Any rush could create disaster.

From the analysis above, the Commission, which is awaiting the outcome of the landmark Supreme Court ruling on the NDC suit challenging the constitutionality of C.I 126 currently before Parliament, may have a herculean task ahead. To be continued

By Elizabeth Koomson, a concerned citizen of Ghana

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