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Opinions of Saturday, 25 January 2020

Columnist: Christopher Ankou, Taxpayers Union

Letter to the Electoral Commission of Ghana

Jean Mensa, Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC) Jean Mensa, Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC)

Dear Madam,

1. Taxpayers Union is composed of taxpayers and citizens of Ghana with a national broadbased membership. We are interested in and committed to the values and principles of good governance, social justice and tax justice. Again, we are guided by the ideals and principles of freedom, justice, probity, and accountability, as are enshrined in the preamble to Ghana’s Fourth Republican Constitution.

2. As citizens of Ghana, we are also mindful of our constitutional duty under articles 41(f) and 41 (b) of the Constitution “to protect and preserve public property and expose and combat misuse and waste of public funds and property” and “to uphold and defend this constitution and the law.”

3. We have closely followed the matters surrounding the plan by the Electoral Commission, among others, to compile new voters register for the 2020 general elections. The matter has led to a heated, and, to a large extent, divisive and suspicious atmosphere towards the 2020 general election. We are equally concerned about the timing and the cost of the whole exercise totaling over Three Hundred and Ninety Million Ghana Cedis – GHS390,000,000.

4. On 31st December 2019, the Commission held a press conference titled, “the case for a New Biometric Voter Management System and New Voters Register”. During the press conference, the Commission mentioned that “the Electoral Commission intends to procure a new Biometric Voter Management Solution ahead of the 2020 General Election” and that “the Commission took the decision based on the advice of its IT team and external Consultants to the effect that, it would be prudent to acquire a new system rather than refurbish the current system.” The Commission later went ahead to list some of the reasons adduced by its IT team and external consultants.

5. As citizens of this country, we are concerned about, and, not happy with the atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion that has characterised this whole matter. Many Ghanaians including civil society organisations have expressed worry about the apparent lack of electoral transparency and accountability relative to the plan to have a new biometric data management solution and voters register.

Again, owing to the scattered and different reasons/justification advanced by the Commission in the 31st December, 2020 press statement, and other public pronouncements by the Commissioners and Officers of the Commission, we are of the respectful consideration that a little more transparency and accountability will help demystify the issues for the ordinary taxpayer.

6. We are of the strongest conviction that all the information surrounding the matter, including particularly, the contract and the full report of the external consultants constitute information that should be made available to every taxpayer and Ghanaians. We are fortified in this belief by Article 21(1)(f) of the Constitution which provides that “all persons shall have the right to… information, subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society.”

We are not aware of any restrictions and laws essential to democracy that prevent citizens from being informed of all the facts and information surrounding the proposed biometric data management solution and new voters register being funded by the Ghanaian citizen and taxpayer. We also respectfully assert that there is no conceivable public interest privilege that applies to deny the taxpayers access to that information.

7. Consequently, we write to you to request information from the Commission, premised on the following questions:

i. What is the name(s) of the external consultants whose services you engaged in respect of the proposed new voters register as announced in your 31st December 2019 press conference? What type of consulting service did you request from them? What was the Terms of Reference (ToR) for their consultancy services?

ii. Which public procurement procedure did the Commission adopt in selecting the external consultants? Kindly supply us with any documents in support of your response to this question where available.

iii. What was the total sum for the consultancy services rendered by the external consultants which directly resulted in the advice to your Commission to replace the BVR Kits, the BVDs and to compile new voters register? How many payments were made to the external consultants, and when were they made? For each payment, may we have copies of all the usual, relevant documents?

iv. Were any taxes paid or withheld, as the case may be, particularly with respect to withholding tax, value added tax and the national health insurance levy, and if so, may we have copies of any relevant invoices?

v. Kindly supply us with the full report (and, any other related relevant documents) from the external consultants since same formed the basis for the advice for a new Biometric Voter Management System and Voters Register requiring the use of taxpayers money for implementation.

vi. Kindly provide us with the specifications of the old BVR Kits and BVD and the specifications of the new BVR kits and BVD you intend procuring to enable us compare the prices from other manufacturers and suppliers. Again, provide us with the contacts – email addresses, telephone numbers, location addresses, etc., - of the manufacturers, and suppliers of the BVR kits and BVD.

vii. We respectfully request that you provide the information requested herein within fourteen (14) days of the date of this letter, failing which you should consider this letter as the written Notice of Intention of Civil Action.