Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Madam Jean Mensa Jean has asserted that the 2020 general election was credible and cost-effective.
Madam Jean Mensa, at the 2021 ECOWAS Parliamentary Seminar in Winneba said the comparative cost of the election was reduced by 41% which is equivalent to 90 million dollars.
“Notwithstanding inflation and price hikes and the fact that we incurred additional costs owing to the COVID-19 protocols we deployed throughout the election, we cut the cost per voter, from 13 dollars per head in 2016 to 7 dollars per head. Through a reduction in cost, we saved the government a formidable sum of $90 million.”
“We were met with many challenges, but we surmounted most of them and those we could not overcome, we learned from. Sadly, seven lives were lost, and though these did not occur at our polling stations or arise as a result of misconduct on our part, one life lost is one too many. We are hoping that our security agencies will share their findings and recommendations for future learning,” she said.
According to her Ghana’s 2020 elections was a historic one for the transparency, the credibility, the cost-effectiveness, the high turnout, and peaceful conduct that characterized it.
"So orderly, so methodical, so calm were the polls on 7th December 2020 that BBC Africa could find no other way to describe our elections than “boring”. We refer to them as Historic also because, we conducted all our electoral processes and elections at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, without the spread of the virus," she said.
Still in the pursuit of transparency, on voting day she said the EC introduced a new layer of scrutiny of the electoral process by introducing a regional level of collation of results.
"The Regional Collation Centres enabled Party Agents to further scrutinize, affirm and collate results from constituencies within their regions before submission to the National Collation Centre."
She said this further deepened the transparency of our elections and reduced the tension and suspicion that foment during long waits for constituency level results.
"In the past we waited for 275 Constituency results. This time, we received 16 Regional Results. This innovation introduced efficiency in the collation of results and enabled us to declare the results in a record 48 hours," she added.
She the successes of Ghana’s 2020 elections proved that elections in our sub-region can be efficiently conducted, inspite of the odds and challenges.
Collation of results
The Chairperson of the EC said to further enhance the culture of transparency, the EC constantly engaged the public and the media in twice-weekly encounters dubbed: "Let the Citizen Know", in the run-up to the elections.
"On this platform, we provided citizens with information on on-going electoral activities and answered their questions and concerns. This helped to open up our process and demystify our work.
"Again, through this platform we provided swift responses and facts to counter fake news thereby substantially reducing the tensions and suspicions that usually arise from fake news and the lack of information," she said.
Read her full speech below
SPEECH BY THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION OF GHANA AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE HIGH-LEVEL PARLIAMENTARY SEMINAR ON TWO DECADES OF DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS IN ECOWAS MEMBER STATES: ACHIEVEMENTS, CHALLENGES AND THE WAY FORWARD, ON OCTOBER 12TH, 2021
H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana and current Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government,
H.E. Mahamoudou Issoufou, Former President of the Republic of Niger and former Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government,
H.E. Mr. Alban Bagbin, Rt. Honourable Speaker of the Parliament of Ghana,
His Lordship, Justice Anin Yeboah, Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana,
H.E. Sidie Mohamed Tunis, Rt. Honourable Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament,
H.E. Jean Claude Kassi Brou, President of the ECOWAS Commission,
H.E. Madam Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Ghana,
H.E. Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, Former UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel
COP. George Akuffo Dampare, Inspector General of Police of the Ghana Police Service,
Honourable Alexander Afenyo-Markin, Member of Parliament for Effutu Constituency and Head of the Ghanaian Delegation of the Members of the ECOWAS Parliament,
Honourable Members of the ECOWAS Parliament,
Heads of National Electoral Commissions of ECOWAS states,
Former Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Ghana,
Dr. Kwadwo Afari Gyan, my father and good friend
Representatives of Civil Society,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, a very good morning to you,
I thank the good Lord for making it possible for me to be here today.
It is an honour to address a House of this stature at a sitting so important to the future of democratic elections in our nations and across the sub-region.
I also express my gratitude to the organizers of the Seminar, the ECOWAS Parliament for enabling us to convene as neighbours and compatriots to share the achievements and challenges we have encountered in our stewardship of the high office of leadership we have been called to.
I join in wishing you a warm welcome home to Ghana. I trust that your stay with us will be both pleasant and fruitful.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a well-known fact that elections are one of the most significant building blocks of a democracy. Elections help preserve the sanctity of a democracy. Through elections, a people exercise their sovereign will to choose their own leaders and through electoral laws and processes, a nation unites under the common purpose of protecting that sovereign will.
And yet, elections, and the processes that precede them, sometimes prove divisive and de-stabilizing, and threaten the very cohesion they are designed to provide. Sadly, the past few decades have seemed to provide the world with a narrative that has spoken more of the threat than the beauty of elections on our continent.
Mr. President,Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, our convening in this Seminar attests that the story of elections in our sub-region is still being written today; and that the author’s pen rests firmly in the palm of our own hands.
All of us, gathered here, have a key role in determining whether going into the next two decades, ours will be a story of a rising Africa; an inspiration, and a repository of best practices, for the lasting benefit of generations yet unborn, or whether it will be another sad African tale of a lost legacy and a broken promise to a generation that looked to us with hope.
Mr. President, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, to the glory of God, I am pleased to say that Ghana held an election in December 2020 that proved that the story of elections in our sub-region can indeed be an inspiration. That our story as West African states can be one that brings hope to our youth and light to the coming generation, and that we can provide best practices that the most advanced democracies of the world can learn from. Yes, we can.
I humbly refer to Ghana’s 2020 elections as a historic election for the transparency, the credibility, the cost-effectiveness, the high turnout, and peaceful conduct that characterized it. So orderly, so methodical, so calm were the polls on 7th December 2020 that BBC Africa could find no other way to describe our elections than “boring” We refer to them as Historic also because, we conducted all our electoral processes and elections at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, without the spread of the virus.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, permit me to mention a few of the successes of Ghana’s 2020 elections;
We proved that elections in our sub-region can be efficiently conducted, inspite of the odds and challenges.
The global COVID-19 pandemic caused a major disruption to our election timetable as a result of the uncertainty as well as the fact that suppliers of our electoral materials were unable to meet our procurement schedules owing to the global lockdown.
As a result, it was only six months to our elections that we were able to commence our electoral processes. And yet, Ladies and Gentlemen, within that short space of time, we completed every electoral process including introducing and deploying a new Biometric Voter Management System, comprising hardware and software and preparing a new biometric voters register. This and other electoral processes were undertaken within a space of 6 months from June 30th when we started the registration exercise to December, 9th when we declared the results.
In spite of the fears and projection of a low turnout as a result of the COVID-19 virus, we compiled of an entirely new Biometric Voters Register in 38 days only, successfully registering over 17 million eligible Ghanaians in that short period of time and exceeding our initial target of 15 million registrants. And this time we captured facial features in addition to fingerprints, providing two means of biometric verification – face and finger prints.
This enabled us to significantly reduce the avenues for voters to be verified manually on election day. By bringing voter registration centres to the doorsteps of citizens, we ensured that every eligible person who wished to register was able to do so. The efficiency of our coverage in the voter registration exercise has been attested to, by the recently released population census figures that place Ghana’s population at 30.8 million. The 17 million and 27 Thousand voters on our register represents 55.2% of the population of Ghana; a percentage that fully meets international standards for registration of voters.
The efficiency of our electoral process did not end with the voter registration exercise. On voting day, we reduced the time it took a voter to vote from 10 to 12 minutes per voter to 3 - 5 minutes. Thanks to the robust and efficient biometric verification devices deployed. Indeed, Social Media was agog with the positive stories of voters on the time it took to vote, each person excitedly testifying on their positive experience.
We innovated ground-breaking best practice for the achievement of orderly and swift polling processes. And so, for the first time in our history, there were no long queues, no frustrated crowds, and no disgruntled voters on voting day. So orderly and swift was our polling process that by 1pm, 70% of our polling stations had completed voting; long before the end of the polls at 5pm. We achieved this through a simple system of reducing the number of voters per polling station and increasing the number of Polling Stations nationwide. I am happy to note that we recorded a voter turnout of 79% compared to 67% in 2016.
We proved that electoral processes in West Africa can be transparent. All our electoral activities was conducted in the full glare of the public. During the registration exercise for example, we ensured that citizens received daily updates on the numbers of voters registered nationwide. As such by the end of the registration exercise, the ordinary citizen could calculate, with near accuracy, the total number of registered voters, drilling down to details such as number of male/female voters number of youth and first-time voters, and number of PWDs.
Again, in the months leading to the elections, we firmly established a culture of transparency, engaging the public and the media in twice-weekly encounters, which we themed “Let the Citizen Know”.
On this platform, we provided citizens with information on on-going electoral activities and answered their questions and concerns. This helped to open up our process and demystify our work.
Again, through this platform we provided swift responses and facts to counter fake news thereby substantially reducing the tensions and suspicions that usually arise from fake news and the lack of information.
Still in the pursuit of transparency, on voting day we introduced a new layer of scrutiny of the electoral process by introducing a regional level of collation of results. The Regional Collation Centres enabled Party Agents to further scrutinize, affirm and collate results from constituencies within their regions before submission to the National Collation Centre.
This further deepened the transparency of our elections and reduced the tension and suspicion that foment during long waits for constituency level results. In the past we waited for 275 Constituency results. This time, we received 16 Regional Results. This innovation introduced efficiency in the collation of results and enabled us to declare the results in a record 48 hours.
We proved that elections in our sub-region can be cost-effective, and that with strict financial and procurement protocols, elections on our sub-continent can be largely self-financed.
Mr President, distinguished guests, for the first time in our history, we executed the entire electoral process without any external funding. Indeed, our election in 2020 was solely financed by the Government of Ghana.
I am happy to note that we reduced the cost of our elections by 41% compared to 2016 notwithstanding inflation and price hikes and the fact that we incurred additional costs owing to the COVID-19 protocols we deployed throughout the elections. (Pause) We cut down the cost per voter from US$13.00 in 2016 to US$7.70 at a time when the cost of elections is rising the world over. Through this reduction in cost, we saved our government a formidable sum of US$90 million.
Needless to say, these were no easy feats. It took the herculean effort of our entire team and the helping hand of the Almighty God to accomplish these achievements.
We met with many challenges, but we surmounted most of them. And those we could not overcome we have learnt from. Sadly 7 precious lives were lost. Though this did not occur at our Polling Stations or arise as a result of misconduct on the part of our staff, one life lost is a life to many. We trust that the security agencies will share their findings and recommendation for future learning.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the story of Ghana’s successful elections in 2020 is yours too; for the story of one of us, is indeed the story of all of us.
My wish for us, as we prepare to share and learn from our collective journey of conducting democratic elections, is that we will arrive at a destination where the successes we have chalked, the challenges that have met us, and the lessons we have learnt, all culminate in a new determination; a new institutional strength; and a new story of elections on the West African sub-region. And may God Almighty be our Helper.
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