The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) is calling on the Electoral Commission (EC) to punish officials whose negligent acts undermine the nation’s electoral process.
Political parties, lawyers and other stakeholders have expressed concerns about the EC’s reluctance to implement electoral reforms suggested by the nine eminent judges of the Supreme Court who sat on the election petition case.
The President of the nine member panel of justices, William Atuguba asked the EC to audit the voters’ register.
He also suggested that the Commission provides a supplementary register, re-examine the caliber of presiding officers appointed at various polling stations, among others.
[contextly_sidebar id=”OGY7YoBP4jPVm8R0xQaCl1gskMuzSl5G”]As of now, the EC has not announced plans to implement any of the recommendations proposed by these stakeholders.
A press statement issued by the IEA, further called on the EC to recruit highly trained people to serve as Election Officials
Below is the full statement issued by the IEA
THE IEA ELECTORAL REFORM PROJECT
RECOMMENDATION 3 (THREE)
“RECRUIT HIGHLY TRAINED ELECTION OFFICIALS AND PUNISH THEM WHEN THEY ACT NEGLIGENTLY”
DR RANSFORD GYAMPO
RESEARCH FELLOW, IEA
In series 3, of the IEA Electoral Reform Project we discuss Recommendation Three (3). Under this, The IEA is calling on the Electoral Commission to recruit highly trained people to serve as Election Officials and to punish those who act negligently to undermine the nation’s electoral process.
Election Officials such as Presiding Officers, Polling Assistants and Returning Officers play a very crucial role in our electoral process.
The credibility of the nation’s electoral process as well as acceptance of election results as free and fair; peaceful and transparent, to a large extent, depend on these polling officials. Where they perform their duties efficiently, the credibility of the poll is guaranteed but where they are incompetent and act negligently, they compromise the poll and undermine the nation’s electoral process.
In the nation’s drive towards democratic maturity and quest for credible, transparent and acceptable elections, there is the need for a rethink of the caliber of people recruited as election officials.
As a fledgling democracy, it is imperative that we explicitly provide in our electoral regulations some minimum educational qualifications for those who apply to be engaged as election officials.
Currently, the Electoral Commission conducts written examination to select those to engage for voter registration and other election duties. In the IEA’S view, it is high time the Electoral Commission reviewed its syllabus and raised the standard of the examination.
The regulations should also provide a minimum period for the training of the election and registration officials before they are assigned duties. Voter education should be intensified such that voters will take advantage of the exhibition of names of proposed election officials and object to those that they know to be bias or incompetent.
Again, the electoral regulations should also be reviewed and provision made to punish elections officials who perform their duties negligently.
The current regulations provide for election officials to take an oath administered by the district election officer before embarking on their duties but the IEA recommend that the oath be administered by the district magistrate to bring its effect forcefully to the officials. Any act of omission or commission that flouts this oath should attract severe punishment including prison sentences.
Apart from polling agents, all polling officials can also be described as officials of the state who are paid for services rendered during the electoral process.
They must therefore be held accountable for what they do. Knowing the thorough details of the task of an election official as well as the consequences likely to be suffered for negligence and dereliction of duties would help in ensuring that only competent and responsible people apply for jobs as election officials.
Mr. Chairman of Electoral Commission, here too you have a role to play. Initiate appropriate steps to revise our electoral rules; improve your; syllabus and training programmes for election officials; sensitize them about their responsibilities and the likely consequences for their negligence.
Again, work with the NCCE to sensitize the public about their role in ensuring that only qualified and competent people are recruited as election officials.
Negligence and Incompetence on the part of some election officials undermines the credibility of elections and should not be countenanced in future elections.
By: Marian Efe Ansah/citifmonline.com/Ghana