Details emerging from the Electoral Commission (EC) indicate that the election management body was paying a whopping $4 million annually to a vendor for the servicing of biometric verification equipment.
The Chairperson of the EC, Jean Mensa, who made the revelation, said the annual financial obligation was met irrespective of whether there was an election or not, a retainership of sort.
This, according to the commission, was not a feasible arrangement considering the quantum of money that literally went down the drain for no work done.
As to the vendor being angry by the cessation of the contract, she said “it’s Ghanaians who should be peeved about how much they were losing under the unwise decision to part with so much money for no work done.”
Cost Benefit Analysis
According to Mrs. Mensa, a cost benefit analysis of the arrangement informed the EC’s decision to change the status quo and consider an arrangement, which goes for $600,000 for similar services with extras for same period.
“Why should we pay $4 million as though we are acquiring new equipment? It just doesn’t make sense,” she said.
She also said that a cost benefit analysis of the biometric voter management system has shown that building an entirely new system for the 2020 general elections is far cheaper than the cost of servicing the old biometric machines that were used for the 2016 elections.
The Canadian consultant the EC has been engaging since 2011 made an assessment of the equipment and the financial obligation thereof and found it unsustainable and advised against its continuation.
The EC boss explained that the biometric verification equipment under review was acquired in 2011.
In her estimation, the consultant somewhat consider the biometric equipment to be antiquated, given the advancement made since the period of their acquisition.
“Technology has evolved,” she said, adding that even with the said equipment in place during the last elections, high incidence of manual verification took place at voting centres across the country. The financial implication should be considered.”
The consultant, who advised against maintaining the verification devices under review, is the one responsible for the 2011 architecture of the EC, she added.
“Our decision has saved the EC $20 million,” she disclosed.
She revealed that the ownership of the critical software of the election management body is an affront to the country’s sovereignty.
“The vendor proprietorship of the software is not right,” she stressed, explaining that “even the password for the system is not known to the IT staff of the EC.”
The EC, according to Jean Mensa, wants to avail itself of the opportunity of knowledge transfer, which under the previous vendor, did not take place.
“This among others informed our decision to abrogate our previous arrangement,” she said.
The EC, contrary to what is being touted in some circles, has not entered into an arrangement with any vendor yet. A request has been put out though.
Two vendors, Fairgreen and Beerhand, are on the table but the former has experience and skills in such matters whereas the latter lacks both.
“We have written to the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) as required by law. No deal has been reached yet,” Mrs Mensa said.
“Sole-sourcing is the preferred option because we want to avail ourselves of the knowledge transfer component which comes with this arrangement and the current situation in which we find ourselves would not permit us to go for competitive tendering,” she said.
“STL was supposed to have transferred knowledge but it did not,” she mentioned.
“We do not have any vendor yet. A pre-qualification announcement tender is about to go out.
“The EC would soon embark on recruitment of person with requisite skills,” she announced.
No To Lock-In System
Ms Mensa said the new EC is opposed to the lock-in system in the previous order and would reach out to stakeholders so the management of elections would be enhanced and transparent.
Security At EC
“Following threats of the past fortnight something was done to change the status quo of security management at the EC,” she said to a question about what some persons consider to be inappropriate security checks at the EC’s headquarters.
“The new security arrangement followed advice from a security expert and against the backdrop of recent threats from some quarters. The security level has been raised accordingly. It’s not noticeable when one is within the compound of the EC,” she said.
“We have been in office for the past eight months and it was only a fortnight ago that we stepped up our security. Even as we speak, when you come to our headquarters you would not find any heavily armed security agent loitering at the place,” she added.
Joe Bright Nyarko
Journalist/Communication Researcher. Environment & Sustainability Advocate. Managing Editor of aptnewsghana.com, a non-profit news portal with bias towards environment and sustainability issues, rural development policies and gender & inequality.