The procurement for materials for the much-touted biometric registration exercise in preparation for the crucial Presidential and Legislative elections in 2012 has fallen into the hands of foreign vendors, whose operations and track record in vote automation are very suspicious.

The Electoral Commission (EC) of the Republic of Ghana has indicated that it would no more use the current voter register to conduct the 2012 general elections (Presidential and Parliamentary), since it has on numerous occasions received complaints of double voting and registration, hence the introduction of biometric registration to curb the anomaly.

However, there is a high possibility that the new initiative being embarked upon by the EC will be fraught with electoral fraud, according to background checks conducted by The Chronicle.

Two of the foreign vendors; Smartmatic Technology and Superlock Technologies Limited (STL), which the EC has penciled in to supply materials for the registration exercise are suspects in vote automation.

Checks by The Chronicle have revealed that Superlock Technologies Limited, a Ghanaian registered Israel company has no track record in the field of vote automation (biometric registration exercise).

The company prides itself in the field of Security and Interior doors, Collapsible and Fixed Burglarproof, Balustrades, Air conditioners, Padlocks, Safes and Water heaters. It also provides consultancy services, supply, installations and maintenance services on security materials.

The doors and security lock company in 2010 was investigated by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), now the Economic & Organized Crime Office (EOCO) in a US$16.9million contract awarded to it, to renovate some Ghanaian foreign missions.

The said contract was awarded to the company without going through due process as prescribed under the Procurement Act of the country.

The company was accused of not having a track record in the field of construction, but due to its influence across the various political divide, it was awarded the US$16.9million contract to renovate Ghana’s foreign mission in New York, Washington D. C. ( both in the USA), and Ottawa in Canada.

The SFO established that STL had been involved in dubious deals. There are many within and without our political environment who believe that the company, which is now the biggest data service provider for the Government and other public institutions, should be restricted to its core functions.

Smartmatic Technology on the other hand is an internationally acclaimed service provider in vote automation with presence in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, Barbados, USA, UK, Netherlands, Philippines and Taiwan.

However, its operations in the aforementioned countries have been fraught in secrecy, with the world yet to discover the real identity of the owners of the company.

Over the past seven years, Smartmatic has made three changes on three unique name servers and made five changes on four unique IP addresses, a clear demonstration of its intention not to disclose the big players behind the company.

Vote automation service provided by Smartmatic in the May 10th 2010 national elections in the Philippines was questioned by scores of people, including computer experts, Civil Society Organizations, as well as the opposition party.

In Chicago, vote automation service provided by Smartmatic under a joint venture business with Sequoia was also questioned after serious problems plagued the voting and vote counting in the recent primaries.

The EC had initially shortlisted five companies out of the 47 companies that expressed interest but decided to add two more companies by its own evaluation committee made up of three commissioners, three independent IT experts and three directors of the commission, with a Deputy Chairman of the commission, as chairman of the committee.

Surprisingly, the two companies that were brought on board at the last minute, according to inside sources within the EC, have been penciled to provide materials for the vote automation exercise, which clearly violates the Procurement Law.

With the EC’s avowed decision to settle on the two foreign vendors, serious questions of integrity and transparency are arising. The EC is likely to flout a mandatory requirement of an ACT of Parliament to select a maximum of six and expand the shortlist to seven when its own Evaluation Committee, according to inside sources, had recommended five.

The same institution appears to have disqualified the only Ghanaian-led consortium on the flimsy excuse of not adding a certificate of incorporation when it was not required in the tender.

Among the qualification requirements in the submission of Tenders were;                                  1) Tenderers must provide documentary evidence of their financia, technical and production capacity necessary to execute the contract.                                                             2) Purchaser may conduct inspection of tenderers premises prior to award of contract.                                                                                                                                                 3) Tenderers shall submit copies of two (2) years most current audited accounts (2008, 2009) showing balance sheet etc. and 4) Tenderers must submit a manufactures authorization.

This Ghanaian enterprise, The Chronicle understands, has the best consortium of companies, with the best track record and verifiable international and local expertise.

The said company, The Chronicle learnt, did the pilot vote automation project for the EC. The same company, according to inside sources at the National Identification Authority was involved in the recently held National Identification exercise.

The EC despite a court action by the Ghanaian-led consortium is bent on going ahead with the demonstration of biometric equipment of their two selected foreign vendors but this was welcomed with marred reception when all the political parties invited to witness the exercise walked out on Tuesday, August 30, 2011, when they were invited by the EC.

 

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