Friday, May 31, 2013

AFARI-GYAN SPEAKS - Verification not applicable to only fingerprints (May 31, 2013 - Lead Story)

Dr Kwadwo Afari-GyanDr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan

The Returning Officer of the 2012 presidential election, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, yesterday mounted the witness box, to the surprise of many, and denied claims that verification only applied to fingerprints.
“It is not true that verification is limited to fingerprint alone,” he pointed out, and said 70,951 people were captured to vote without undergoing biometric verification due to their physical conditions.
According to him, he did not know where the star witness for the petitioners, Dr Mahamadu Bawumia, got the figure 3,196 as being the number of face-only voters (FOs) captured by the biometric machine.
Dr Afari-Gyan explained that there were more than 18,000 FOs in the Upper East and Northern regions alone.
While admitting that the EC and the political parties had agreed that voters had to undergo biometric verification, he explained that an exceptional concession was made   for   persons   suffering   from   permanent   and temporary trauma.
He informed the court that people who applied to register but did not have fingers were classified as persons suffering from permanent trauma and qualified to vote.
The other category, he explained, were voters who had fingers but the machine could not capture their fingerprints.
These two categories, he pointed out, were classified as FOs and, therefore, not required to undergo biometric verification.

The Surprise
Before he could be sworn in to give his evidence-in-chief, counsel for the petitioners challenging the declaration of President John Dramani Mahama as the winner of the 2012 presidential poll, Mr Philip Addison, sought judicial directions from the bench as to why Dr Afari-Gyan had mounted the witness box.
Counsel argued that the Deputy Chairman in charge of Finance and Administration at the EC, Mr Amadu Sulley, had deposed to affidavits in the case and in view of that it was not proper for Dr Afari-Gyan to lead evidence.
Mr Quashie-Idun disagreed with Mr Addison and stated that the party in the case was the EC and argued that another Deputy Commissioner of the EC, Mr Sarfo Kantanka, had also sworn to affidavits.
According to Mr Quashie-Idun, the affidavits sworn were from witnesses of the EC, adding that Dr Afari-Gyan was also a party in the case.
In a unanimous ruling read on behalf of the nine-member panel, the Presiding Judge, Mr Justice William Atuguba, said Dr Afari-Gyan was the Returning Officer of the 2012 elections and could, therefore, give oral evidence.

The Evidence
In his evidence-in-chief, Dr Afari-Gyan took the court through the processes the EC had to go through to capture soldiers and policemen returning from peacekeeping duties, as well as students on scholarship and foreign mission workers, on the electoral roll.
He said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave the EC a list of 2,000 people but the EC’s officers managed to capture only 705 names across 28 different locations in the world and explained that “the team got back angry and said they registered only 705 persons after long trips”.
Dr Afari-Gyan indicated that absolutely no voting took place anywhere abroad, explaining that persons who were captured outside in the voters register were assigned to polling stations in Ghana.

Biometric Registration and Verification in 2012 
Explaining further, Dr Afari-Gyan said Ghana was currently using the biometric system of registration and said the final voters register captured 14,031,680 voters.
He stated that the regular information required for a voter to be properly identified had already been captured and indicated that there were only two elements that constituted biometric registration — the use of biometric technology to capture the 10 fingerprints of applicants and the capturing of the photograph of applicants.
The benefits of biometric registration, he explained, included the avoidance of multiple registration and indicated that there was an instance in which someone registered 15 times during the last registration and the biometric registration machine made it possible for the name of the person to be deleted from the register.
He said the registration exercise took place for more than 40 days and because there was not enough equipment for all the 26,002 polling stations, a set of biometric registration machines was allocated to four polling stations who took turns to register for 10 days each.
Dr Afari-Gyan indicated that the EC had problems during the registration process but was able to eventually overcome them and further indicated that daily printouts of registered voters were given to representatives of the various political parties that participated in the polls.
“This is the only country where we allow political party representatives to be present at registration centres,” he pointed out.

General Information
He took the court through the way balloting was done and explained that the booklets printed came in pages of 25, 50 and 100 and further pointed out that although the law required 10 per cent of ballot papers to be allotted to each polling station, that quota was impossible to meet, especially when it was restricted for ballot booklets to be split.
He emphasised that loose ballots were not allowed in Ghana’s electoral system and for that reason it was impossible for the EC to strictly meet that 10 per cent quota, thereby making the EC exceed the quota in some polling stations.

Printing Houses
Dr Afari-Gyan said the representatives of the various political parties were present to monitor the printing of ballot papers at the printing houses where the ballot papers were printed.
There were instances when the representatives were able to track the movement of ballots, he said, adding, “This is not a secret activity.”

No EC Staff at Polling Station
He drew the court’s attention to the fact that none of the permanent staff of the EC participated in the administration of elections at the various 26,002 polling stations across the country.
According to him, the EC engaged temporary personnel numbering more than 130,000 to assist in the smooth conduct of the presidential and parliamentary elections.
Mr Addison, at that point, shot to his feet and declared that “the witness is lecturing us”, but the court, in a 6-3 majority ruling, overturned his objection.
Dr Afari Gyan informed the court that the British Department for International Development (DFID) sponsored training for 270,000 party agents, as well as printed 400,000 guides for candidates and their agents for the 2012 general election, adding, “Agents form part of the team entrusted with the responsibility for making sure the elections are run properly at polling stations.”
He stressed that polling agents were not observers.

Special Voting
He told the court that special voting was conducted for security personnel and electoral officials who would not be present at their designated polling stations on voting day and explained that ballots cast during special voting were sealed and counted after the close of poll on voting day.
He said there was one centre for special voting for each constituency and stated that it was not correct for Dr Bawumia to state that pink sheets were not issued for special voting.

Filling of Pink Sheet 
Dr Afari-Gyan explained that the law required aspects of the Statement of Poll and Declaration of Result for the office of President, also known as the pink sheet, to be filled before the commencement of poll on election day.
For instance, Sections A and B are expected to be filled out before voting commences.
Section A1 to A2 requires ballot information. Under that section, the presiding officer is expected to answer questions such as: What is the number of ballots issued to this polling station and what is the range of serial numbers of the ballot papers issued to the polling station?
Section B – Information on the register and the other lists at the polling station.
Thus B1 to B3 requires the number of voters on the polling station register, the number of voters on the proxy voters list and the total number of voters eligible to vote at a particular polling station.

Voting Process
The witness also took the court through the voting and general biometric verification process and indicated that stamps, tamper evident envelopes and ballot boxes for polling stations did not have any serial numbers.
He also stated that ballot boxes were turned upside down and placed in the open for the view of the public before voting commenced.
He also indicated that presiding officers and polling agents were required to sign pink sheets after the declaration of results and took the court through the procedures for objecting to ballot counting and declaration of polls.

The Petition
The hearing of the substantive petition began on April 17, 2013.
So far, Dr Bawumia has testified on behalf of the petitioners and has been cross-examined by lawyers for President Mahama, the EC and the NDC.
The General Secretary of the NDC, Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketia, has also given evidence on behalf of the NDC and President Mahama and has since been cross- examined by the other parties in the case.
The petitioners have alleged that the December 7 and 8, 2012 presidential election was fraught with malpractices of over-voting, non-signing of pink sheets by presiding officers or their assistants, voting without biometric verification and duplicated serial numbers of pink sheets.
However, President Mahama, the EC and the NDC have denied that any such irregularities occurred during the election.

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