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My officers are not trained – Afari-Gyan 6/2/2013

In an attempt to justify the alleged irregularities as errors in the December 2012 Presidential Election, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), has admitted that the officials contracted by the commission for the exercise were not properly trained.

He said at the Presidential Election Petition currently ongoing at the Supreme Court that, the over 130,000 personnel recruited as temporary staff to help organise the elections in all the 26,002 polling stations lacked the requisite training to be able to do a good job.

“When you have a huge number of temporary employees, training becomes difficult. Getting the right calibre of persons for the exercise was a problem…given their tasks, it will be a miracle if some of them did not commit mistakes.”

While the petitioners insist that the alleged irregularities, malpractices and violations committed on the face of 11,842 ‘Statement of poll and declaration of results’ forms which have now come to be known as Pink Sheets because of its colour, affected the outcome of the results that made John Dramani Mahama the elected President. The respondents, on the other hand, claimed they were either administrative, trans positional or clerical errors.

Taking his turn for the first time as witness since the case began; Dr. Afari-Gyan said all the personnel used for the 2012 general elections were employed on a temporary basis.

Led in evidence by James Quarshie-Idun before a nine member justices, the EC Chairman said apart from the recruitment of Presiding Officers plus four personnel making up the 130,000, the commission also recruited 275 Returning Officers plus two deputies in all the constituencies making a total of 825.

He said that none of the permanent staff of the commission actually took part in the administration of the election at the 26,002 polling stations.

Dr. Afari-Gyan said the commission hired the Returning Officers for a period of three months while the actual period of work for the numerous personnel was not more than four days after a few days of training them.

In his attempt to debunk Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia’s evidence that party agents were observers in the electoral process, the EC Chairman said “we don’t regard party agents as observers. They were part of the process.”

The Registration

He told the court that after demarcation of all the registration centres, the commission proceeded to register all eligible voters.

He said they collected variety of personal data from all eligible voters and said the 2012 elections was special because of the biometric technology that was introduced.

Dr. Afari-Gyan said the biometric technology helped them to prepare what he called ‘accurate register’ because incidence of multiple registration and other related problems were addressed.

He said they issued on-the-spot voters ID cards and admitted that there were a lot of problems including equipment failure, associated with the registration because “we were doing biometric for the first time.”

He said all the political parties were involved in the registration exercise and at the end of each day, the party agents were given daily print outs of the register.

He said that there were special provisions for people who had permanent trauma or temporary trauma and said they were captured in the register as Face Only (FO) voters.

He insisted that it was not true that the biometric verification was limited only to voters whose fingerprint was going to be captured by the verification device.

He told the court that the category of voters with FO was 70,951 and not 3196 as claimed by the petitioners.

Dr. Afari-Gyan said that the provisional register was displayed to the public and the anomalies found were addressed accordingly.

He said the number of voters that complained about anomalies in the register stood at 11,000 and the commission was able to address the problems.

He said that the register used for the election was 14.031,680 saying “this was the register we used for the election and that was what we gave to the political parties.”

Disabled Registration

Counsel asked the witness to elaborate on issues that arose during the biometric voters’ register. He made a lengthy presentation of the topic, but the high point of the explanation is voters who had certain deformities.

Counsel: Dr. Afari Gyan, were there any differences in the category of people who were registered, were there any differences in the people who were registered?

Witness: Yeah, some of the person who apply for registration did not have fingers at all. We classified these group of people as persons who are suffering from “Permanent Trauma”; permanent in the sense that we don’t think that they would ever get their fingers back. But they qualify to be registered as voters so we did register them….When appear in the register, they would have the letters “FO” against their names. During elections, their data is scanned; their picture would pop up on the screen of the verification device and there would be alongside the picture, “FO”. An FO means “Face Only” verification….

Counsel: Dr. Afari Gyan you heard Dr. Bawumia’s evidence in this court on the “Face Only” or “FOs” registration he said there were 3,196 what comment do you have on that?

Witness: I don’t know where he got that figure from, my lords. The figure is well about 70,000. In fact the figure now is 70,951 and I know that an earlier figure was given which would be less than this, but that figure has gone up by 62 people. The reason is simply because we have completed the registration of the people in the Kassena Nankana district following the order of the High Court…so even the region with the lowest number would be more than 3,000….The second category consisted of Ghanaians living abroad but who were qualified under our law to be registered and they would be made up of people working in the diplomatic missions and their dependants; Ghanaian students abroad on government scholarship; and Ghanaians working in international organisations of which Ghana is a member. These groups of people under our laws are qualified to be registered under our law. The Electoral Commission didn’t know them, so the names were given to us by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ministry gave us a list of more than 2000 such people. We gave the list to the political parties; we also gave them the locations abroad where these people would be registered and the times during which they would be registered…

Polling Station Codes

In response to a question from his counsel about the setting up of a polling station, Dr. Afari Gyan elaborated extensively on the various processes involved in setting up a polling station, culminating in the naming and coding of each polling station. His explanation was widely contrary to Johnson Asiedu Nketia-the star witness of the first and third respondent-theory that two polling stations can have the same quote and when in doubt, the physical location of the station is what counts.

Witness: We first select a suitable place then we give the place a unique code and a name. The code is unique first in the sense that no two polling stations ever have the same code number. It is also unique in the sense that the code is consciously crafted to contain information that directs you to the location of the polling station. The system we use is described as Alphanumeric. That is to say, it combines letters of the alphabet and numbers and the system is a letter followed by six digits….This system makes it very easy, so if we see a code which comprises say four digits, we know immediately that it is not a correct code….The letter that begins a code, tells you the region in which a polling station is situated… (He goes on to explain that the letter in the code indicates the region while the number represents district, electoral area, and the specific polling station within the electoral area)…So the combination of the code and the name [of the polling station] would direct you to a specific place.

Counsel: Dr. Afari Gyan how would you describe this system of coding?

Witness: My lords, we see it as a permanent system of coding. You see, if you take the letter of the alphabet which tells you the region, it’s permanent in the sense that it would change only when Ghana has more regions than there are letters of the alphabet. My lords, as I was saying, we regard the system of coding as a permanent system of coding and that’s why we attach so much importance to it….

Counsel: Dr. Afari Gyan you mentioned that the code may or may not end in an “A” or “B”, could you explain to the court the circumstances under which this could happen?

Witness: It could be A, it be B, it could be C. If we establish two stations in the same locations, we would distinguish them by A and B. If we have an existing polling station and during the period of registration we notice that that polling station has become over-subscribed, because we don’t want the numbers in the polling station to be too large, then we would split the polling station into A and B.

10 per cent Additional Ballots

He said the commission determined the order in which the candidates should be placed on the ballot paper before they went ahead to do the printing in the presence of all the party agents.

He said they added 10 per cent to the number of ballot papers in the voters register. He added that “we aggregate the resulting figures on constituency basis then on regional basis and finally on national basis to get the total number to be printed.”

He said the ballots were delivered in hundreds, fifties and twenty-fives in booklet forms and added that in practical situations the actual distribution is different.

“When it comes to distribution you cannot stick to the additional 10 per cent.”

He said that ballot papers had serial numbers as required by law and they were copied on the at the polling stations on election day.

Transposition Errors

Counsel: …what happens at the collation centre?

Witness: Collation centre is where the returning officer who is really the person in charge of the election in the constituency on behalf of the Electoral Commission…and the returning officer is the person who is going to put together on what we call Collation Form all the results from the various polling stations in the constituency. At the collation centre, they would have agents of the candidates and ideally, those agents would have the results from the various polling stations in their possession… from which they can check whether the collation being done is correct or not. But let me say that there are two errors that can easily be committed at the collation centre and we call them in election language, Transposition errors, and let me tell you that some of these things occurred…Two forms of transposition errors: My scores have been entered against another candidate and maybe some other candidate’s scores have been entered against me, that would be a transposition error.

Particularly if care is not taken in arranging the candidates, if the candidates are not arranged in the collation form as they are arranged on the polling station form or the pink sheet, it could easily give rise to a transposition error. Another transposition error that can occur at the collation centre is taking the score from the pink sheet onto the collation sheet…let’s say the number is 11,000 and then he [the returning officer] picks 1,000, that would be another transposition error. So when we do the training, we tell people to watch out for the possibility of transposition errors. We have seen them where they have resulted in the defeat of candidates who should have won the election.

Election Day

He said Early or Special Voting was done four days before the actual election for EC officials and security personnel whose services were required on election day.

He said that Special Voting had its own pink sheet and added that they only moved all election materials on election day.

He said after the Presiding Officer set up the polling station, the law required certain portions of the pink sheet to be filled before the ballot commenced saying “if he/she does not do that it is an irregularity.”

He said that stamps used on polling day did not have serial numbers and added that “they are distributed at random.

Dr. Afari-Gyan also said that the ballot boxes as well as the tamper-proof envelopes did not have serial numbers.

The Pink Sheet

Counsel takes the witness to the various columns to be filled on the pink sheets by presiding officers before and after the elections at the polls….

Counsel: Now let’s go to section C…

Witness: My lords, section C says “Ballot Accounting” and the instruction here: “To be filled in at end of the poll before counting commences”.

Counsel: And the next question [on the pink sheet] Dr. Afari Gyan?

Witness: The next question is: “What is the number of ballots issued to voters on the proxy voters’ list?” Well if there are any proxies and you have issued ballots to the proxies then you would indicate it there.

Counsel: and (Section) C4… (Realised he made a mistake, he quickly corrects himself)…I’m sorry C3

Witness: C3 is missing from this book. This is an older form…as I said, because normally, C3 was inserted to cater for a special facility that’s why it’s missing from this one.

Justice Baffoe-Bonnie: I think we need a better explanation than that, we don’t have C3.

Witness: I’m saying that this form is the earlier version…

Justice Baffoe-Bonnie: Yes, I understand, I heard you, but what I’m saying is this, if this is an earlier version of the pink sheet, then we should have C3 but with a different question, but this one jumps to C4 specifically leaving C3 out why?

Witness: Ohh, it is a number problem I think… (Court roars into laughter). My lord if you look on the right side and you will see there is a mistake…

What is Election

When asked to define election he said it was difficult to do because it had no precise definition before saying in a democracy it was a contest between candidates and that contest was decided by a poll adding “it is a process which consist of various activities which culminate in activities of election and subsequent declaration of the results.”

Personal Experience

Sharing his personal experience, Dr. Afari-Gyan said he had been the Commissioner since 1993 and also mentioned that he worked and served on several boards and international organisations.

The Clash

Dr. Afari-Gyan’s long winding testimony caught the attention of Phillip Addison, lead counsel for the petitioners, to raise an objection saying that some of the things the commissioner was saying were not in either the pleadings or affidavits of the 2nd respondent.

He said described the testimony of Dr. Afari-Gyan as a ‘lecture’ saying “We have sat down for this lecture to go on for too long.”

However, Mr. Quarshie-Idun replied that “it is perfectly in order. We are here trying to show how the election was conducted.”

In a 6-3 majority decision with Justices Julius Ansah, Rose C. Owusu and Annin-Yeboah, dissenting, the objection was overruled and the witness proceeded with his examination-in-chief.

The Protest

Just when Dr. Afari Gyan mounted the witness box, lead counsel for the petitioners, Philip Addison, protested his presence.

Mr. Addison: My lords, we would like to seek some directions from the court in respect of the witness in the box. Pursuant to the directions of this court, all parties filed affidavits. Now, affidavits filed on behalf of the second respondent were sworn to by Amadu Sulley and no reason why Dr. Afari Gyan is now the one going to testify. Quite clearly, he has not sworn to any affidavit, and we do not know the ambit of what it is that he is coming to give in his evidence-in-chief. The evidence of Sulley amounts to evidence-in-chief and a different person is now coming to continue with the evidence-in-chief, so we would like to have direction from the court in this regard (Counsel for the second respondent James Quashie-Idun responds

Mr. Quashie-Idun: My lords, the party is the Electoral Commission, it is not only Mr. Amadu Sulley who has sworn to affidavit; it is Amadu Sulley and also Kwadwo Safo-Katanka, the two deputies. They swore affidavits to the interlocutories to the matters the court dealt with and he is here as the party representing the electoral commission to give evidence, my lord. I will like to add that the affidavit sworn to by Mr. Sulley and by Mr. Safo-Katanka, could be considered as affidavits of witnesses to the party, but here is the party himself to give evidence, my lords.

Mr. Addison: First of all, Mr. Safo Katanka only swore to affidavits in support of interlocutory applications. In respect to their answer and affidavits in pursuant to the order of 2nd April, they were sworn to by Mr. Sulley. If counsel is now saying that Mr. Amadu Sulley is the witness for the second respondent, then we may wonder why he’s been sitting in court all this while, it disqualifies him as a witness then, because all along, we presumed that he was representing the second respondent and it was in that capacity he’s been sitting in this courtroom. (The judges consulted among one another for a substantive ruling on the issue)

Justice Atuguba: This is our clarification; Dr. Kwadwo Afari Gyan is representing the Electoral Commission in his capacity as a party to this case, and the returning officer to the general elections of Ghana. He can therefore pursuant to the directives for trial in this case on 2nd April 2013, give evidence on behalf of the second respondent.

Sitting continues on June 3, 2013 where Dr. Afari-Gyan will continue his examination-in-chief.

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