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Election in Ghana is expensive ... It will cost $12 per head if general elections were held today.

The fortitude of every democratic country pivots on a good electoral process and the rule of law.

In the past, the inability of countries to transfer power from one government to the other, which threw many of these countries into disarray, as they encountered coups and counter-coups, was as result of autocracy.

Today, democracy has conquered autocracy in many counties, though some are still struggling, but could power still be transferred with the issue of 'moneycracy' rearing its ugly head in the faces of many, and that of Ghana to be precise?

Yesterday, the Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana, Mrs Jean Mensa, revealed that in 2016, the cost incurred by the Electoral Commission in conducting elections with a voter population of 15,712,499 was $12.03 per voter, a figure higher than that of Nigeria and Tanzania, where elections cost $9.55 and $5 per head respectively.

This means that if elections were to be held in the country today, with the same voter population as that of 2016, then the country would need $189 million.

This figure, according to Mrs Jean Mensa, is very high and makes the cost of running elections very expensive and would want it to be discussed at the ongoing 17th International Electoral Affairs Symposium, which commenced yesterday, and would end today.

She said: 'Electoral process is the cornerstone of every democracy. It provides legitimacy to our leaders and democratic institutions, and, therefore, needs not only to be maintained, but, more importantly, fortified.'

Madam Jean Mensa indicated that the EC had restored the principles and values of the commission, thus transparency, fairness and integrity, and intends to abide by them, hence, steps should be taken to ensure that the cost of running elections is low.

'So, while the Commission has made significant progress towards perfecting its systems and processes in the last two decades, there is more room for improvement. Work must be done to address the high cost of our elections.'

The programme, which brought together over thirty heads of Election Management Bodies (EMBs), and being organised by the International Center for Parliamentary Studies (ICPS), was to promote effective policymaking and good governance through enhanced interaction between parliaments, governments and other stakeholders in society.

Outlining the causes of the expensive nature of Ghana's election, the EC Chair mentioned the cost of providing security for elections as one of them.

She indicated that tightening security right from the process of Election Day, through to the declaration of results, was paramount, but the era of social media churning out fake news, mischief makers and scaremongers had inflated the cost of providing security during elections, and should be looked at.

Another reason she stated for the high cost elections was the procurement of modern technologies and hardware.

Madam Jean Mensa indicated that 'since our assumption of office, we have been concerned about the high cost associated with the procurement of hardware, namely biometric registration and verification devices used in the electoral process.'

She said the commission would need information on efficient systems and equipment that would provide value for money, because, regardless, her outfit is keen on learning about advances in the area of technology to be able to use them in Ghana's electoral process.

'Another important subject that we will broach is that of institutional capacity building. A major challenge we have observed is that of vendors taking over and owning the biometric database of EMBs.

'This is a worrying trend, especially in developing countries that are striving to become more independent,' she said.

Madam Mensa said she would like to see how EMBs can build the capacity of their staff, particularly, in the area of ICT, to ensure that their day-to-day administrative processes, maintenance and management of their database are not hijacked by vendors.

The EC Chair believes that when these issues are tackled by people with knowledge on electoral processes, the cost of running elections in the country can be reduced.
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Publication:Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra, Ghana)
Geographic Code:6GHAN
Date:Jan 31, 2019
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