The request for GH¢7 million in the budget of the Electoral Commission to be used for a run-off in the December Presidential election, will only be provided if the need arises.
That, the Chairman of the EC, Dr K. Afari-Gyan, explained was because the EC was made aware that such contingencies were normally not provided for in the budget.
This was his response to a question about the EC’s funds for the elections at a colloquium organised by the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) in Accra yesterday.
The colloquium was to gauge the preparedness of the EC towards the elections and the challenges of the commission in that endeavour.
Thirty-five identifiable groups and organisations spanning women, youth, religious and community-based organisations, legal, civil society, as well as political parties, were represented at the colloquium.
Questions from participants bordered on the EC’s ability to ensure the compliance of political parties to the 1992 Constitution and other statutes, its electoral timetable, measures by the commission to prevent the abuse of incumbency and the conditions of service and preparedness of the staff, amongst a host of other questions.
Dr Afari-Gyan, however, confirmed assurances from the government to provide all funds needed by the Commission at every stage of organising the December 7, 2008 elections.
“If you mean we have all the money we need, that is, about GH¢ 41 million, locked up in the safe at the commission, no.
“However, we have all the money we need to date to do what we have to do,” he added.
He explained that no electoral system could have a single release of all the funds it needed at a time, explaining that the EC had a “phased release” system, which was an in-built mechanism of the electoral budget, which stipulated specific amounts at specific times and for specific activities.
Responding to some of the issues raised, Dr Afari-Gyan reiterated the fact that political parties should not call or declare results of the upcoming elections before an official announcement by the EC.
He said if all political parties were allowed to call or declare results it would cause “a chaotic situation”, especially if all declared themselves winners.
“All party agents, if they are really on the ground, will have the results sheets of all the polling stations. Sit down quietly and tabulate, and if there are any discrepancies, bring it to our notice,” he told political parties.
He said all Ghanaians had to allow the legal authority charged with the responsibility, i.e. the EC, to declare the results.
“We allow the press to announce results, even at the polling station level. We allow the press to do it even at the constituency level once things are done properly,” he went on.
He explained that the press was allowed to announce the results at these levels, and when that was done in a faithful, proper and non-distortional manner, no one could tamper with them.
Dr Afari-Gyan gave the assurance that the EC could in no way tamper with the results of the elections because in the case of parliamentary candidates the winner was announced at the constituency level, while that of the presidential candidates was announced at the EC after collation at all levels.
“We are the last people to see the results. How am I then going to change it? I am only the returning officer for the presidential results. Our electoral system and the system of collating results is quite different from others and has in-built integrity. It is not advisable for anyone to call results,” he said.
On the issue of the bloated register, Dr Afari-Gyan admitted there were discrepancies in the voters register provided by some parties and the EC’s database.
“We hope we will find the source of the discrepancy so we can resolve the problem,” he said, adding that the committee charged with the responsibility to find the source of the discrepancy would be given ample time to finish its work.
However, the chairman criticised Ghanaians for contributing to the bloating of the register.
“In the normal circumstances, dead people do not vote. In some jurisdictions, the dead remain on the register for five years. The problem we have in Ghana is that political parties resurrect dead people to vote on the day,” he pointed out.
He said in some areas, political party officials and other community leaders vouched for the ages of minors in communities to be registered.
“In this respect, all political parties are guilty in areas where they are most dominant,” he said emphatically.
He, however, reassured Ghanaians that verifying what was on the voters register could be done in three different ways, i.e. by the EC’s main database, a polling book, which was the hand-written version of the register, and a photo book, which was another register of details at the time when the voter’s picture was being taken.
On abuse of incumbency and the constitutional provision for all political parties to have an active presence in all districts in the country, Dr Afari-Gyan said there were grey areas in the law that had to be revisited.
For instance, all political parties had signed on to a self-regulatory code of conduct. However, some did not adhere and the EC was powerless in ensuring that all complied because it was not mandated by law.
On the constitutional requirement for political parties to maintain an “active presence”, he said the EC and the parties had different views on the definition.
While the parties insisted that an active presence meant they only had to have some contact with the people in the districts, the EC’s position was that political parties needed to have an office in the districts.
Dr Afari-Gyan said when parties were notified of an inspection of their district offices, they “played tricks” with the Commission.
He said some quickly went to find structures and painted them in party colours. However, when the commission went back there some weeks later, those structures were found to be commercial bases.
He said another grey area was the law requiring parties to account for all their expenditure.
In some cases, when parties did any accounting at all, they did not do it satisfactorily, while others attributed some expenses to their aspiring presidential candidates, who were not bound by the law to account for anything.
The chairman for the function, Prof. V. C. R. A. C. Crabbe, who is a co-chair of CODEO, said in any good electoral process it was important for all to be responsible.
DAILY GRAPHIC, TUESDAY, MAY 13, 2008, PG 24 (SPREAD)