By Eugene Davis
The Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Jean Mensa, has told parliament that under the continuous registration exercise, the commission would be saving the country GHc40m by using its own internal staff as opposed to engaging external hands.
According to her, the EC would be using its own staff to perform those functions and “the rough estimate is that we will be saving this country GHc40m.”
Appearing before parliament’s Committee of the Whole alongside officials of the National Identification Authority (NIA) on Tuesday to brief lawmakers on the pre-laying draft Constitutional Instrument (CI) that seeks to make the Ghana Card as the sole identification for a voter, she said “We do not envisage disenfranchising Ghanaians. More so, what we are seeking to do is continuous exercise; we have up to October 2024, we are not closing the register now.
I want to assure the House the commission does not intend to prepare a new register, what we are seeking to do with the continuous registration is update the existing registration.”
The draft CI before Parliament seeks to promote the Continuous registration of voters and advocates for an all year- round registration of eligible voters at the district offices of the EC. It is a clear departure from the previous system where voters registration was done for a limited period.
Further, the EC chairperson explained that today, with 16 million Ghanaians in possession of the Ghana Card, and with NIA’s assurance that it will print and distribute the remaining cards to registrants in a matter of weeks, “we do not believe that we will disenfranchise persons by enforcing the policy requirement of using the Ghana Card to prove one’s eligibility.”
The use of the Ghana Card as the sole means of identification will prevent foreigners and minors from getting onto our Voters Register. More especially it will prevent unqualified persons from influencing our elections and having a say as to who should govern our country, she added.
The Executive Secretary of the National Identification Authority (NIA) Prof.Ken Attafuah also disclosed that the total number of Ghanaians captured onto its database as at February 19,2023 stands at 17.3m [17,375,861] with 16m cards issued/collected.
A total of 642,403 NIA cards which have been printed nationwide but yet to be collected and 541,529 cards are yet to be printed. Out of Ghana’s total population of about 30m, about 2.5m citizens aged 15 years are yet to be captured by NIA.
According to him, the NIA can print the remaining over 500,000 cards within 11 days given availability of funds.
Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta stated that all expenses related would be duly complied with, he added that GHc100m has been agreed to be transferred to[Cal Bank Merchant] aid NIA retrieve the 3.5m cards seized by commercial banks.
Minority Leader, Dr.Ato Forson stated that the ordinary Ghanaian at the minimum should get access to the Ghana Card before the EC seeks to go ahead with the laying of a new constitutional instrument(CI) that makes the Ghana card the only form of identification for registration as a voter.
He maintained that the minority will not take part in the CI process if all outstanding issues are not resolved, stressing that the NIA should go and solve the issue of Ghana card first before, they push for the CI.
“The EC cannot use ghana card as the only basis for registration to vote, we demand an independent verification of the numbers the NIA is giving us.”
Dr. Forson also disclosed that government owes service providers US$175m and until government settles those debt, it will not be prudent for the EC to move to lay a CI to use the Ghana card to establish citizenship to vote.