General News of Wednesday, 4 October 2017
The biometric registration exercise undertaken by the then ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) for its members made the party to believe that it had the numbers to win the 2016 general elections.
“The register gave a misleading impression of the party’s true strength in some branches and constituencies, as some of the aspirants registered non-NDC members in their bid to win at all cost and by all means,” the report of the Professor Kwesi Botchwey Committee that investigated why the party, under John Mahama, embarrassingly lost the December 7, 2016 elections, has indicated.
The now opposition party has subsequently conceded that the biometric registration played a role in the defeat of President John Mahama, saying that it is going to scrap it.
According to the Greater Regional Chairman of the party, Ade Coker, the plan to jettison the biometric system is to bring sanity into the party’s register.
Speaking during the NDC’s ‘unity walk’ in Accra recently, Mr Ade Coker accepted the Botchwey Committee report on the biometric registration which was manipulated to make the NDC look a large political entity.
“We are now going to ensure that the biometric registration which contributed to our downfall is going to be scrapped and a better system put in place so that the true NDC people will be identified,” Ade Coker said.
This observation was also accepted by a presidential hopeful, Sylvester Mensah, who welcomed the decision by the executives to review the biometric register, saying it would make the register more credible.
According to him, the current register is ridden with errors and problems which need to be addressed before the party begins internal elections.
“Of course, we have had difficulties with the integrity of our register. We have evidence of individuals whose membership of the NDC is doubtful on the register. We have had complaints from people to the effect that their names have been omitted from the register. So it is a fact that the register has challenges so there is a need for some work to be done on this register,” he stated.
From pages 15 to 19 of the 65-page Executive Summary of the 455-page report which the NDC has kept like a state secret, the Botchwey Committee recorded how the party was inconsistent in deciding on the biometric exercise and manipulation of the system by some individuals.
The party even at a point attempted to link its biometric registration platform to the national system operated by the Electoral Commission (EC) and at another, tried to contract a South African firm called Guma Group – to conduct the biometric exercise but abandoned it in the course of the whole project over cost.
Guma Group was the same company the NDC government, under President John Evans Atta Mills, had brought into the country to sign a Memorandum of Understanding in May 2012 to roll out housing units for the security agencies that never was.
The South African company is affiliated to the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
The housing project was supposed to take off in October 2015, beginning with the construction of some 500 housing units for police personnel, and it was hoped that Guma Group was going to fill the vacuum for the botched STX Korea housing project.
According to the committee’s report, the NDC “implemented the biometric registration project without any safety nets.”
The report said the manipulation of the register was real and that had put the integrity of the whole exercise into question.
“The integrity of the biometric register was compromised and a number of the primaries flawed on account of widespread manipulation,” the report has indicated.
It also claims that the biometric exercise brought “ethnicism in the constituencies of diverse ethnic groups” in the party, adding, “Constituencies that hitherto supported and promoted the party as one people, became divided during the primaries and in some cases after the primaries.”
The report said that the whole idea of the biometric registration was imposed on NDC members, saying, “There were no broad consultations with stakeholders, especially the MPs who were to be directly affected by the system.”
“Some membership cards were allegedly printed by unauthorized persons. The biometric register was not piloted before implementation,” avers the report.
According to the report, “Some national, regional and constituency executives had preferred candidates and therefore skewed to favour them, leaving grassroots members bitter and frustrated and making reconciliation difficult before and even after elections.”
It maintains that “Some members of the biometric registration committee itself were alleged to have resorted to working independently of the committee and dealing directly with aspirants and other interested parties in the parliamentary primaries in their respective constituencies.”
It further posits, “There were inconsistencies in the implementation of the biometric data capture project; members who wanted to be registered were asked to pay GH¢1.00 per head but this was abandoned and made free later in the course of the registration,” adding, “A number of independent candidates emerged from many constituencies as protest to the conduct and outcome of the implementation of the expanded Electoral College.”
The report lists constituencies such as Savelugu, Saboba and Bunkpurugu in the Northern Region; Lawra in the Upper West Region; Akontombra in the Western Region and Adenta in Greater Accra as areas where the mishandling of the biometric project brought trouble to the NDC.
According to the report, the committee was able to come to its conclusion on the biometric register because of the contributions of “party supporters, as well as stakeholders, including MPs (exiters) former aspirants, former Ambassadors and High Commissioners, cadres, former ministers and deputies, the Zongo Caucus, the communicators group and others, who appeared before the committee.
“A number of key party executives and experts we spoke to largely corroborated the above summary and the general confusion that beset the biometric register.”