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General News of Tuesday, 15 March 2016


Validation is not a term of art – Tarzan

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Baying for the blood of the Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana has become the fashionable blood sport in Ghana.

It seems like every Ghanaian living everywhere, at least of the “chattering classes,” wants to be seen to be screaming “off with the heads” at Madam Charlotte Osei and her seemingly hapless bunch of Commissioners.

Persons eminent, and not so eminent; religious and not so pious; knowledgeable, and palpably hollow; participants, and their more concerned ventriloquists; and of course, the motley crew of assorted social media commentators and ““wannabees”” All of these motley groups of people are in very fierce battle to distinguish themselves as the knights in shining armour defending transparency, accountability, fairness and cleanliness in the impending contest to elect a new Executive and Legislature for Oman Ghana.

Alas, it turns out that many of the battles are but mere war games played by supposedly valiant and gallant soldiers who it turns out are very frightened about the prospect of being pricked by a flesh wound, let alone dying in battle.

The EC has just completed, what most participants acknowledged as a very successful exercise to test the Biometric Verification Machines (BVM) that would be used in this year’s election.

My eyes on the ground, who have very keen interest in the outcome of the elections, have unanimously confirmed as much.

All the fears, genuine and “awam”, which manifested themselves before the exercise, turned out to be largely unfounded or unmeritorious. But alas, before we could digest the outcome and lessons of the latest milestone on the road to November 07, 2016, another red herring has been fished out by the Let My Vote Count Alliance (LMVC), pressure group that has given itself a self-appointed role as ‘angel guardians’ of free and fair elections on behalf of the people of Ghana, or should I say some particular factions of the people.

Despite the fact that there are representatives of all the likely competitors on the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) if the EC, the LMVC wants Ghanaians to believe that they are better at smelling and sighting electoral fraud than the competitors; a veritable case of ‘holier than thou.

The LMVC has issued a statement demanding of the EC to tell Ghanaians when it will carry out a recommendation of its own panel of eminent experts and the supreme court of Ghana, to validate the clearly bloated voters register to give it a touch of credibility for the November poll.

This demand has been made despite the constitutional edict that the EC is not to be directed in its work by any outs person or body; or a clear and unambiguous statement from the panel or the SC of a specific time in that the validation of the register must be carried.

Without saying so in a bold manner, it seems to me that the LMVC, and the assorted competitors hiding in its cloak, want, nay demand that the process of the verification of the voters register must be done at a particular time, and in a prescribed format, in the election cycle.

It is unclear what this time and format should be. However, what is without dispute and conjecture, is that the EC has not rejected the advice of its own panel or the SC to validate the bloated register ahead of the election So we the people of Ghana who will also exercise the same right to vote on a one person, one vote basis are entitled to ask: 1) why is the LMVC and assorted folks raising this phantom problem now?; and, 2) What is this whole Validation thing, and is there a prescribed format and timing for doing it? How should it be done?? Let’s all agree on what we mean by validation.

The most accessible definition I could find for it says: “to establish the soundness, accuracy, or legitimacy of:” If we accept this for now, we are all trying to ensure that the voter register we will use on November, 2016 should be accurate and sound, and more importantly accepted as legitimate by every Ghanaian living everywhere who is of sound mind and registered to vote, Please note, none of the many definitions I have not goggled sets down a specific format for achieving these desirables nor indeed prescribes a specific time when verification must be done.

But if i may be permitted to offer my engineering training as a guide, verification must take place as a necessary precondition before declaring a product as fit for the intended purpose.

In practice, it is the proving of a prototype before you go into manufacture or production. The current debate and when and how validation should be done takes me back to the early years of the 4Th Republic of Ghana when we were all scrambling to get a handle on what various provisions of the constitution of Ghana meant .

These were the days when the Supreme Court of Ghana was called upon very frequently to do right by us and attempt to decipher the real intent of the framers of our constitution In 1997, the NPP, led by my uncle J.H. Mensah, took the Government to court on the intent, meaning and procedure for the vetting by Parliament of the President’s nominee for Chief Justice specifically, and generally for Presidential appointments that required the approval of Parliament, under Article 144(1), namely “The Chief Justice shall be appointed by the President acting in consultation with the Council of State and with the approval of Parliament”.
The NPP insisted that approval by Parliament should be in a prescribed format and according to a specific procedure, which if my memory serves me right, must include subjecting the nominee to vigorous scrutiny and interrogation.

The NDC countered that the constitution simply required prior approval, but did not specify that Parliament should adopt uncle J.H.’s rules of engagement in a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court rule that “prior approval” was not a term of art. Like most Ghanaians devoid of legal training, I scrambled to understand what this elegant language of the ruling meant.

In plain and simple English, term of art is a word or phrase that has a particular or specialised meaning in a particular field or profession.

So far as neither the EC’s expert panel, nor the Supreme Court of Ghana, has prescribe specific or specialised meaning for validating the voters register.

Therefore any attempt by anybody else, other than the EC itself, no matter how well intended they may be, to prescribe the format and timing of it, must be deemed unlawful and be jettisoned with alacrity In Part 2, I will share my ideas as to how and when we should go about validating the voters register of Ghana so that it may become fit for the purpose of ensuring a free and fair election on November 7, 2017.

These will be necessarily suggestions to the EC, which they may take or leave as they wish. But I can assure you they shall be made without any threats or claims to entitlement.

By: Dr. Charles Wereko-Brobby

Chief Policy Analyst

The Ghana Institute of Policy Options (GIPPO)

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