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General News of Monday, 20 January 2020

Source: Nana Osei, Contributor

New Biometric Voter System will save Ghana GHS173,077,650.00 - EC

Jean Mensah, Chairperson of the EC Jean Mensah, Chairperson of the EC

Full-fledged investigations have found evidence that the Electoral Commission could save the country millions of Ghana Cedis if the new biometric Voter Management System is implemented compared to upgrading the existing system.

The EC’s decision to compile a new voters’ register for the 2020 election has been met with fierce resistance by civil society groups and opposition politicians.

Last week, some 18 CSOs issued a joint press statement and concluded: “It is our view that under the present circumstances, the expense for an end-to-end system, as opposed to a precise surgical augmentation and improvement of the existing system, is not justified. Ghana can save considerable portions of the planned expenditure in a good variety of ways as suggested above”

However, EC IT team in an interaction with editors on Thursday in Accra debunked that assertion and instead provided data, indicating that, the country will save as much as $18 million or GHS104,677,650.00 (using cedi-dollar rate of 5.7) if it goes ahead with the acquisition of the new Biometric Voter Management System (BVMS).

It explained that the total cost of maintaining the old Biometric System is $74, 364, 500 while the total cost for new BVMS system is estimated at $56,000,000. These include Biometric Voter Registration Kits (BVR) kits and the Biometric Verification Devices (BVD).

Giving further breakdown of the cost of the entire process, it said the total cost of using the old BVR system for the 2020 election is $38, 692,500.00.

This includes cost of refurbishment of some BVR kits used in 2016 and the acquisition of new ones.

The number of kits used in the 2016 registration was 5,500 and number of kits that were refurbishable was 1,500 and the unit cost of refurbishment was $3500, pegging the total cost of refurbishment at $5,250,000.

The EC further posits that the nation also needs an additional 6500 kits at a unit cost of $5145, pegging total cost of additional kits at 33,442,500.

However, for the new system, the number of BVR kits required for the 2020 election is 8,000 at unit cost of $3,000.00 , pegging the total cost for the new BVR at $24,000000.

Similarly, the EC intends to acquire some 80,000.00 BVD kits at a unit cost of $400.00 making a total of $32M compared to the $ 35,672,000.00 if it takes the path of refurbishing and purchasing additional BVDs from the previous vendor.

Furthermore, the EC opted against the proposal of the previous vendors to upgrade and refurbish their current datacenters and its equipment for a combined build and 1 year maintenance cost of $19M for a completely new datacenters equipment with current systems for a combined build and 3 year maintenance cost of $7M.

It total therefore the EC seeks to save the Ghanaian tax payer a combine total of GHS 173,077,650.00 (30,364,500.00).

Challenges with the old BVR system

The EC argues that none of the IT staff at the commission were trained on the BVMS, and that it (EC) was completely reliant on the vendor for the management of the system. Simply put the commission was “vendor locked-in.”

It further explained that the application server used for the online VMS was limited by allowing only 200 concurrent connections, adding that the EC has some 260 district offices nationwide each with at least 2 MVMS machines.

This had hampered the online registration process significantly during the just ended limited registration exercise.

The EC said with the old system, there was no business continuity or an IT disaster recovery plan

Advantages of the New System

According to the EC, the new server hardware comes with three, four or five year’s warranty and support coverage.

It argues that other system components of the new system are latest technology, providing higher performance.

It also has higher memory capacity than the older server would support, and likely less expensive memory.

The EC intends to intensify education on the new BVR in the coming days to give the assurance that the new system is the best for the crucial 2020 election.

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