As International Companies Vie for Contractual Seal
Banjul, The Gambia (TNBES) “A complete and accurate voters list is the starting point of a credible election. An election that is credible must prevent voters from voting more than once and unregistered voters from voting,” the Chairman of The Gambia Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Alhajie Mustapha L. Carayol has said.
He made this statement at the Kairaba Beach Hotel during a one-day presentations and demonstrations on how to conduct the process of Biometric Voter’s Cards on Tuesday 12th January, 2010.
The two Companies, CODE Incorporated Digital Registration Solution (from Canada) and Zetes PASS of Belgium were on hand to present and demonstrate on how to conduct the exercise provided that they secured the contract.
According to the Chairman Carayol, seven companies (including Gambian owned, Pristine Consulting) were invited by the Commission to make some presentations and demonstrations on biometric voter registration, out of which CODE Inc and Zetes PASS were short listed.
He also told representatives of various stakeholders that the IEC requested technical and financial project proposals from each company, in which they indicated how the registration will be conducted, the gadgets to employ, the cost involved and the timeline.
He explained the decision to go biometric was derived from the views of stakeholders. “After the last cycle of elections from 2006 to 2008, all stakeholders were consulted on the electoral process with a view to critically analyse it. After thorough reflection and consultations, the Commission decided to go for biometric-based solutions for the registration of voters,” he said.
He said: “the need to shift from traditional method of registering voters which uses instant Polaroid cameras and films together with cold laminate pouches to a modern and state-of-the-art technology cannot be overemphasized.”
He admitted that the IEC has since its inception used traditional form of voter registration, which includes the use of Polaroid camera, counterfoil books and voting cards issued in cold plastic laminates.
He said that this system was less secured as the voting card can easily be forged and damaged. “There were also issues such as double registration and missing names,” he revealed.
According to him, the biometric systems is unique for the fact that it have been developed around unique characteristics of individuals, cannot be borrowed, stolen or forgotten and forging one is practically impossible. However, he was quick to add that except in replacement surgery.
He added that the biometric system is non-duplicable, because it is an intrinsic property of an individual, this will greatly help in dealing with double registration. Biometric registration of voters will avail us the opportunity to cross match the data collected to verify within a short time that the person has not registered before.
On security, he noted that the use of fingerprints and password for anyone accessing the system lessens any risk of tampering with the system.
He also pointed out that with proper networking (one database supported by seven administrative databases) that this system requires data will be securely transferred thus easing the problem of missing names.
“The IEC operates on its guiding principles of fair play, integrity, neutrality, independence, credibility, transparency, accountability and professionalism,” he said.
He commended the government for fulfilling its financial obligation to the Commission as enshrined in Section 44 of the 1997 Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia. “Similarly, I wish to thank the UNDP, DfID and EU for magnanimously providing resources that greatly enhanced the success of the last cycle of elections,” he said.
He also revealed that the Commission’s budget for 2010 to 2013 is over D152 million, out of which the registration of biometric voter’s cards will cost more than D61 million.
The two companies will conduct mock registration exercises at St. Augustine and Muslim Senior Secondary Schools in Banjul on 14th January; Charles Jaw Memorial Senior Secondary School in Kanifing Estate and Latrikunda Upper Basic School in Latrikunda German on 15th January; while Siffoe and Bottrop Senior Secondary Schools in the Western Region will take their turn on 16th January 2010. VOL:2 ISSN:21