Parliament, has asked the Electoral Commission (EC) to provide further answers on a new constitutional instrument it is seeking to lay.
The Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations, 2022, is seeking to scrap the guarantor system and make the Ghana card, the only proof of nationality for voter registration.
Presenting the report of the special budget committee following a meeting with the EC over the CI, majority Chief Whip, Frank Annoh-Dompreh, stated the EC must appear before parliament with the National Identification Authority (NIA) over the decision to use Ghana card.
The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, after the debate directed the Chairperson of the EC, Jean Mensah, to appear in person before the Committee of the Whole of Parliament to brief members on the new constitutional instrument (C.I.).
He insisted that, the EC must be represented at the highest level at the next meeting of the committee with officials of the commission and the National Identification Authority (NIA).
The Speaker told the House that the appearance of Mrs Mensah, would allow the House to gain better insight into the various challenges such as budget, resources and logistical constraints facing the commission in undertaking the new voter register for eligible voters in the country.
Addressing the House soon after a meeting of the Committee of the Whole with the officials of the EC and the NIA, Mr Bagbin, also directed the House that if they wanted to invite any personality to brief them on any issue, they should state so in future letters.
He considered that the earlier communications by the House, was only directed at institutions and therefore the EC, did not err in sending deputy chairperson to brief members of Parliament on the new C.I.
“The deputy chairperson in charge of operations is quite high enough but he cannot be giving the assurances that the Chairperson will give.
The directive of the Speaker, came after the Minority Leader, Dr Ato Forson, per the report of the Special Budget Committee, which had been adopted, indicated that the two leader of the EC and the NIA were to sit together to listen to themselves and for members to listen to them to make a determination and “most importantly for us to have an assurance from the two institutions before the C.I. will proceed to its laying.”
“Mr Speaker, unfortunately the Chairperson of the EC is not here; I recognised that the deputy is here, but it is not the same as the Chairperson of the EC.
“The Chairperson of the EC, has consistently avoided Parliament and we are of the view that the issues that we have raised since morning are issues that we prefer the EC chairperson to be here to give us the needed assurance before we can proceed on this path.
“But her absence will make it difficult for us to accept the deputy to be the one to give that kind of assurance,” he said.
Former minority leader and Tamale South Member of Parliament (MP) Haruna Iddrisu, argued the EC must never be allowed to lay the new CI in its current state, arguing the decision to use the Ghana card will disenfranchise many eligible voters.
He argued the decision to restrict continuous registration to the district offices of the EC will be challenging to many potential voters.
“Mr Speaker throughout history in 1993 since the establishment of the Electoral Commission, voter registration exercise is done at polling stations not district offices. And Mr. Speaker I will use the example of Bole. A polling station in the Bole constituency is as far as spending 4-5 hours to get to Bole township in order to be able to be captured and register as a voter.
“So Mr Speaker you have to travel almost 80km. So for the Electoral Commission to designate only district offices is problematic for us constitutionally, it is problematic for us administratively, and it is problematic for voters to identify. Mr. Speaker, when the opportunity was given to voters to go and register at polling stations, it served two purposes, one, they know where to go and verify their names, and two, they know where to appear on election day to cast their votes. Now limiting it only to a district office will deny Ghanaians this opportunity which can also amount to an attempt to deny them a constitutionally guaranteed right under Article 42.”
The Chairman for the subsidiary legislation committee Dr Dominic Ayine, disclosed the EC officials failed to justify the basis for the amendments to the existing CI when they appeared before his committee.
Responding, Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, said the letters written by the House to the EC, did not specifically request the presence of the chairperson of the EC.
He, therefore, suggested future letters to specifically indicate which authority the House needed to brief them on important national matters.
However, Majority leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, argued that the government will make resources available to the NIA to complete the Ghana card registration exercise. The Suame MP, accused the NDC MPs of misleading the public.