Re: IEC VOTER REGISTRATION MATERIALS CONTRACT- SECURITY CONSIDERATIONS MUST BE PARAMOUNT IN THE AWARD OF SUCH HIGHLY SENSITIVE CONTRACTS!
Having a local company to print the electoral materials without any security considerations for excess printing with the dreaded possibility of being manipulated to win votes during elections, could make it easy for electoral fraud. What will stop that company to provide some of the materials to politicians who want to steal elections?
A good example of a securitized international printing award is the printing of our currency notes by De La Rue. Imagine if our Dalasi notes were to be Printed locally, those responsible for printing our currencies will never be broke so long as they are in charge of printing our money locally? Would it not also create the opportunity for those at the Central Bank to connive with the currency printers to defraud the nation? It is for these reasons that governments around the world are very much concerned about the protection of currency notes and electoral materials.
The Gambia has had its share of electoral fraud during the time of the former regime. It was alleged that Yaya Jammeh used to systematically manipulate voting marbles, ballot boxes, and seals to win elections. The Gambia used to receive millions of voting marbles and thousands of ballot box seals from the Government of Taiwan to conduct elections. Most of those materials were kept at the State House under the control of Jammeh.
The swapping of ballot boxes during elections was a regular feature and was made possible because of the absence of on-the-spot counting of marbles and. Made worse by transporting the ballot boxes by his hand-picked security personnel for counting at different vote counting centers. It is during this process that sealed boxes are swapped. I am not saying that there will be a repeat of such type of electoral fraud with the new paper ballot system. But what can stop the company from over-printing electoral materials with far-reaching consequences for voter fraud?
Concerns about electoral fraud should be given much weight over anything else. We must have a safer way to protect all the printed ballot papers from falling into the wrong hands, and the surest way to do that is to have them printed by reputable international companies with vast experience in printing election materials around the world. The issue of having the required financial capacity to pre-finance the project or to bring patriotism and nationality as a requirement, should not take precedence over the general concerns for a secured electoral system. Since this is the first time to introduce paper ballot voting, IEC must be supported in its drive to prevent anything thing that will bring the legitimacy of our electoral process in question.
The silence of the political parties in the country over this issue is disappointing. It is the business of all stakeholders to make sure that voting with ballot papers is adequately secured from abuse and misuse if we want to protect the legitimacy of our electoral system.
The awarding of the IEC voter registration materials contract must be given to an international reputable company to safeguard the credibility of our electoral process.
By: Morro Gaye