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General News of Friday, 25 November 2016

Source: classfmonline.com

Probe 'compromised' ballot paper printing - NPP

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) insists there has been a breach of security with regard to the printing of ballot papers for the December 7 presidential and parliamentary elections, hence the entire process has been compromised.

According to the NPP, in spite of efforts by management of Innolink Printing Press, the company contracted to print the ballot papers, to explain the circumstances under which a senior staff of the company handed over a production plate to an unknown man, the fact still remains that there has been a breach of security.

A press statement released by Martin Adjei-Mensah Korsah, Director of Elections for the NPP, on Friday November 25 said: “We (NPP) have taken note of a press conference organised by Innolink Printing House on the incident of an alleged security breach which occurred on Monday 21st November 2016, in which a senior staff of Innolink Printing House handed over a production plate to an unknown man.

“It still remains a fact that Mr Martin Anderson (Production Manager of Innolink) handed over the said plate to someone and this has not been denied by the printing house. We believe the manner in which this was done amounts to a security breach.

“The explanation is that the plate was prepared by Innolink for Aerovote, another security printing firm which is in charge of printing the Statement of Poll and Results Declaration Forms, otherwise known as the Pink Sheets. This is most worrying because Aerovote is supposed to be an A1 security printing house, awarded the contract to print arguably the most sensitive document in the entire election process, the Pink Sheets. If such a firm does not have the capacity to make or fix its own printing plates but to rely on another firm, then we consider this a fundamental breach which compromises the integrity of the entire work that it is doing. It is this same Aerovote that, through a subcontract in 2012, was given the very odd task to print duplicated serial numbers on duplicate pink sheets for the 2012 presidential elections. This ended up at the Supreme Court with evidence that Pink Sheets were replaced with new results before collation took place.”

The statement further stated: “We, therefore, do not take this matter lightly at all and believe it should be one of grave concern to the Electoral Commission, requiring an IPAC meeting.”

The concerns of the NPP on the matter are reproduced below:

1. When political party agents reported at that printing press on the 3rd of November 2016 to begin the printing, the rule spelt out to them was that there was to be no other printing or activity during the period apart from the printing of parliamentary and presidential ballot papers.

2. At no point were the agents present at the printing house made aware of a printing plate leaving Innolink. It was all being done on the blind side of the agents. It took the extra vigilance of our agents to detect that a plate had been handed out to an unknown person. Were the BNI agents and Police representatives aware of this?

3. For the avoidance of doubt, our agents are there to observe and report to us anything necessary, especially so when they feel suspicious of a particular activity. They certainly could not have glossed over seeing a security printing plate being taken out of the printing house during the period of printing ballot papers. In fact this was after all the ballots had been printed but yet to be totally distributed and accounted for before the plates used could be destroyed and in the presence of all party agents.

4. When the matter was brought to the party’s attention, the NPP Director of Elections inquired from the production manager of Innolink exactly what had been given out by him. He was unable to tell exactly what he had handed out to the man until after about 10 minutes. According to the owner of Innolink he was only informed about the claim that Innolink was working on a plate for Aerovote only after our agents raised the alarm. In fact Mr Andersson, (the production manager) had to end the phone call with our Director of Elections abruptly and without being able to explain what the plate was and had to call back later with an answer to what it really was. Is it at this point that he realised that what he gave out was a plate from Aerovote? Luckily, both phone conversations were recorded and we are happy to release this for the general public to make up their own minds.

5. We find point seven (7) of the Innolink report stated facts inconsistent with paragraph five (5) of their statement. Whereas in the fifth paragraph Innolink alludes to the Director of Election’s allegation of one of their officers handing over what looks like the plate of a presidential ballot paper to an unknown man, the company has turned around to claim the representatives of the NPP in a meeting denied ever telling the Director of Elections that the plate sent out was the presidential ballot plate. At least nobody has stated categorically so and hence the request for the matter to be investigated and the full facts established. We will happily hand over the recordings we have.

6. You, Innolink, have again claimed within media circles that the NPP, through its agents, apologised over this issue. Again this is false. Our agents completely deny this. In any case how could agents apologise on behalf of the party for a matter that has been taken up on the national level?

AEROVOTE

As a security printing company, the situation demands that you have everything under your care and control. It is very worrying to learn that the printing plate of a document as sensitive as the Statement of Poll and Declaration of Results could be sent over the internet with all the associated risks of compromise. Are there any other possible destinations?

We are even not too sure the claim that the plate given out was not a ballot plate is true because we have not been shown anything otherwise. The Police is yet to tell us anything they have done.

We maintain that this incident has compromised the printing of either one or two of the most sensitive materials for the elections, ballot papers and Pink Sheets. We demand a full and early investigation into this matter. We will not sit unconcerned for the kind of irregularities that took place in 2012 to be repeated. The peace and credibility of our democracy are very important to us.