The Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC), Mrs Jean Mensa has lamented the high cost of elections in Ghana.
“Our elections are fast becoming a very expensive venture and we constantly have to rely on development partners to fund this, thereby compromising our independence,” Mrs Mensa stated at the 17th International Affairs Symposium in Accra.
The Symposium, which was attended by heads of over 30 election management bodies (EMBs) from across Africa, was on the theme: “Building Innovative Strategies for Better Electoral Systems Globally”.
It was organised by the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies, United Kingdom, in collaboration with the EC and the Centre for Democratic Development.
“In 2016 for example, the cost of elections in Ghana was $12.03 per voter, compared to $9.33 per voter in Nigeria (2015) and $5 per voter in Tanzania (2015),” Mrs Mensa said.
“How can EMBs streamline their processes to reduce cost? What avenues and expertise exist to help EMBs audit their processes while maintaining the effectiveness and integrity of their systems?”
She said another important challenge that EMBs faced was that of institutional capacity building and 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,” Mrs Mensa said.
“How can EMBs build the capacity of their staff particularly in the area of ICT, to ensure that their day to day administrative processes and the maintenance and management of their database are not hijacked by vendors?” she quizzed.
Mrs Mensa said five months into her assumption of office, she and her team had already had the experience of conducting a referendum.
“Just a month ago we conducted a referendum to decide on whether or not to create six additional regions. The elections, which were largely successful, witnessed the majority of Ghanaians voting yes in favour of the creation of six new regions,” she said.
She said the Commission was expanding its activities and structures in those new areas.
“Again at the institutional level, we are reflecting on the lessons learnt from the recent referendum as we prepare for the district level elections and another referendum in the last quarter of this year,” Mrs Mensa.
“We believe that the challenges and opportunities, experiences and lessons from these elections and referenda will adequately prepare us for our Presidential and Parliamentary elections in December 2020.”
She said the heads of EMBs were the midwives that births a democracy; adding that: “It provides legitimacy to our leaders and democratic institutions and, therefore, needs not only to be maintained but more importantly fortified.”
She said it was of utmost importance that EMBs were strengthened to ensure that citizens respected the processes that elect their leaders as being free, credible and transparent.
Mrs Mensa said it was essential that political parties freely participated in the electoral process and crucial that the right of citizens to express their preference is protected and guaranteed.
“We the EC of Ghana are committed to these ideals,” she said.
She said recently, they restored the founding principles of the EC, namely transparency, fairness and integrity and that they were determined to abide by these principles.
Mrs Mensa said while the EC had made significant progress towards perfecting its systems and processes in the last two decades, there was more room for improvement.
She cited that more work must be done to address the high costs of elections and the challenge of building institutional capacity.