The Chief Electoral Commissioner/Chairman of NEC (National Electoral Commission), Mohamed N’fah Alie Conteh has replied to a letter written to him by the National Secretary General of the ruling APC (All Peoples Congress) party on 10th September, 2017.
The APC Secretary General, Ambassador Osman Foday Yansaneh had raised series of concerns in his letter captioned “Integrity Of The Voters Register And The Conduct of A Credible, Free and Fair Election”. Dr. Osman Yansaneh, in his letter to the NEC Chairman had called on him to ensure the following:-
- That all the 39,276 voters referred to in your 6th September, 2017 Press Release are included in the Final Voters Register and uploaded into the server;
- That all political parties and the general public are given the opportunity to verify, object to and correct any inaccuracies, concerning their details as provided for by the Public Elections Act 2012.
- That you ensure the stipulated due processes for the conduct of credible, free and fair elections are strictly adhered to at every stage that will ensure the by-in of all political parties and other relevant elections stakeholders relating to the required Final Voters Register to forestall and avoid any incidences that impinge on the integrity of the outcome of the 7th March, 2018, Elections.
In his response, the NEC boss, Mohamed N’fah Alie Conteh said that, “The Commission is assuring all stakeholders that the voter register includes all eligible voters who completed the registration exercise between the period of 20th March and 30th April 2017”.
See the full text of the Chief Electoral Commissioner’s letter of reply to the APC National Secretary General and Ambassador Yansaneh’s letter to NEC below.
O.A.U. DRIVE, TOWER HILL
18th September, 2017
The National Secretary General
All Peoples Congress (APC) Party
We Yone House
11A Old Railway Line
INTERGITY OF THE VOTERS REGISTER AND THE CONDUCT OF A CREDIBLE, FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS
I refer and acknowledge receipt of the correspondence on the above subject dated 10th September 2017 and to provide explanations on the issues raised in the said correspondence.
The Commission will first of all lay the emphasis that the said registration was a joint voter and civil registration process. The registration process was not an exclusive voter registration process but rather a collaborative process between the Commission and the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA). The joint registration system was set up as follows:
- NCRA provided the registration machines.
- The registration machines were first used for the joint voter and civil registration exercise and subsequently for the exclusive civil registration of minors and others.
- NCRA hosted the central civil registration server into which the registration data was transmitted from the registration machines.
- Registration data was transmitted directly from the registration machines at the registration centres to central civil registration server via internet.
- NEC hosted its own separate voter registration server.
- The Automatic Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) or de-duplication system was provided by NCRA.
- Voter registration data was extracted from the central NCRA server to the voter registration server after the de-duplication process.
- The extracted voter registration data was consolidated by the NEC and used to generate the Provisional Voters Register.
The direct dependency of the voter registration system on the civil registration information technology systems affected the generation of the provisional voter register in the following ways:
- The system provided by the Contractor, SMARTMATIC, was to transmit the registration data directly from the registration machines to the central NCRA server via internet. Poor internet connectivity in some parts of the country hampered this process and caused a partial transmission of registration data to the central NCRA server. To ensure effective transmission of registration data, the Commission organized regional transmission centers in Freetown, Bo, Kenema and Makeni during the period of registration. This strategy was implemented in a bid to meet the challenges of poor internet connectivity in some parts of the country. The registration data was exported from the registration machines to USB drives and were taken to the regional transmission centers for transmission. This process was done during the registration process and at the end of the registration process. The drawback to this process was while the Commission was transmitting data from the centers to the central NCRA server, the NEC could not directly confirm the transmission details since the central server is hosted by the NCRA. The NEC did not have direct access to the central NCRA server. In summary, lack of detailed transmission feedback reports from the central NCRA server hampered the efforts of the Commission to track registration data not transmitted. In 2012, the Commission, due to an exclusive voter registration process, effectively tracked transmission of registration data via USB drives directly into the voter registration server. In 2012, the Commission did not have to track transmission of registration data via an intermediary (NCRA) server.
- The registration machines were used between NEC and NCRA during the two exercises:
- Joint voter and civil registration
- Civil registration of minors and others.
- The above arrangement caused the Commission to hand over the registration machines to the NCRA a week after the joint voter and civil registration exercise. As a result the Commission did not have exclusive custody of the registration machines and therefore did not have enough time to check the registration machines to confirm if all registration data had been transmitted to the central NCRA database. At the time of consolidation of registration data, the registration machines were unavailable to the NEC as they had been assigned by the NCRA to registration centers nationwide for the registration of minors and others.
- The registration exercise was hampered by a significant level of faulty registration machines. Faulty machines were replaced immediately in centers during the registration exercise. The faulty machines were brought to the central National Support Center (NSC), managed by the Contractor, SMARTMATIC. After faulty machines were fixed, they were reassigned to the districts but not necessarily to the same registration centers. As a result, some reassigned machines were not reconfigured to the new centers of assignment which resulted to posting of registration data to the wrong center codes.
- The incidence of faulty machines also caused some data to be irretrievable by the NSC and were confirmed as lost data.
- The Commission maintains a disaster recovery system between its national data center at Wellington and the headquarters at Tower Hill. The registration system provided by the Contractor, SMARTMATIC, allowed for the registration machines to both export and backup registration data. The Commission at the end of the joint voter and civil registration ensured that the registration data was backed up in storage drives. However, some of the machines became faulty before the backup procedure was done, which resulted in lost data in some centers. Also, the issue of data not transmitted was largely partial for most of the affected centers. The encrypted data in the backup drives cannot be partially uploaded into the central NCRA server. When data is uploaded from the backup drives, it has to be uploaded in full which may result in duplicating data already transmitted partially into the NCRA server. The backup data are used as a last resort after confirming whether registration data in the machines have all been transmitted to central NCRA server.
The provisional registration total 3,128,967 reported by the Commission at the end of the joint voter and civil registration was sourced from the field registration officers and was based on manual counts. This data had not been verified and was reported by the Commission as “provisional” in a bid to give an unverified indication of the registration trend. The registration total of 3,178,663 after having done the consolidation and deduplication of the registration data clearly shows that the reported registration figures manually counted and reported by field officers were understated.
To conclude, the Commission has noted the concerns and the issues raised by the All Peoples Congress Party with respect to the voter registration process. The Commission is assuring all stakeholders that the voter register includes all eligible voters who completed the registration exercise between the period of 20th March to 30th April 2017.
In particular, the Commission will shortly announce the timeline for the issuance of voter cards to registered voters at center level nationwide. This will give the public and all stakeholders the opportunity to interact with the voter register at the center level.
Similar to 2012, the Commission will provide PDF copies of the voter register to political parties stakeholders in due course.
Please accept the assurance of the Commission’s highest esteem.
National Electoral Commission
Tower Hill, Freetown
INTEGRITY OF THE VOTERS REGISTER AND THE CONDUCT OF A CREDIBLE FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS
We write to draw your attention to concerns relating to data loss, data transfer and incomplete data in the Provisional Voters Register (PVR) exhibited by the National Electoral Commission (NEC), on 22nd to 27th August, 2017. Mr. Chairman, we herein state at the outset, that as an organized party, we are determined and ready to participate in the next elections slated for 7th March, 2018 and we hereby encourage NEC to ensure credible, free and fair elections that will build on Sierra Leone’s record of effective electoral management.
In view of the above therefore, we note with great concern that following the poorly publicized exhibition of the Provisional Voters Register (PVR), 22nd to 27th August 2017, there have been widespread public complaints about significant integrity issues bothering on the Voter Register. We also note that NEC has not been able to come out with a comprehensive and convincing report on the situation, nor have they been able to demonstrate any openness about their reported effort in addressing the problem.
We therefore note with great dissatisfaction the attempt by NEC to play to the gallery, by putting out an evasive press release of 6th September, 2017, with figures that only confirm that the Voter Register has neither been finalized nor its integrity assured.
The APC had questioned the integrity of the first Provisional Voters Register and we now challenge NEC to come up with an authentic Final Voters Register as we consider the evasive press release inadequate and misleading. By informing the public in the said release that NEC has ‘completed the task of registering voters for the National Elections scheduled for 7th March, 2018”, and in the same press release to say that they have lost some data is a disturbing and contradictory development to say the least. Why did NEC not put in place a back-up and disaster recovery equipment to prevent data loss? We do not accept NEC attributing data loss to faulty machines and blaming National Civil Registration Authority, (the institution which bought the machines).
This is an untenable excuse against the backdrop that NEC has an IT section and should have complained then not now if the machines were faulty. It will be helpful if NEC could tell us whether they had Random Access Memory (RAM) or temporary storage facility which could be used to transfer data from respective locations to the server. We want to know where the hard copies or ledgers are, which were used to input names and other details of voters. Let us know which type of data loss NEC had experienced with those registration details.
Mr. Chairman, we refer you to the preliminary results of 3, 128, 967 (Three Million, One Hundred and Twenty-Eight Thousand Nine Hundred and Sixty-Seven) which followed the completion of the second phase of the registration process of Sunday 30th April 2017. We also wish to draw your attention again to the NEC Press Release of 6th September, 2017, which reported a total “3,178,663 (Three Million One Hundred and Seventy-Eight Thousand Six Hundred and Sixty-three”) voters, indicating an increase of 49,696 (Forty Nine Thousand, Six Hundred and Ninety-Six) voters from the initial figures given. Interestingly, this is after what NEC called “a deduplication process” which should otherwise have resulted in the removal of some registrants determined to have registered multiple times.
Mr. Chairman, your commission will note that by law established under the Public Elections Act 2012 and by the requisite ECOWAS Protocol, NEC is under obligations to publish a Final Voters Register six (6) months before the elections, detailing the names, addresses, constituencies, wards and other important information about every eligible voter. You will also note that members of the public and indeed political parties must under the provisions of the Public Elections Act. Act No. 4 of 2012 be given an opportunity to verify, object and rectify any inaccuracies that may be found in the Register.
Sir, as we write on this 10th day of September, the All Peoples Congress have not seen any publication of a Final Voter Register nor have we or our members been given any opportunity to verify, object to or rectify any omission (s) therein
Considering the seriousness of such shortcomings in the electoral process and the very grave ramifications they hold regarding the conduct of free, fair and credible elections, the All Peoples Congress therefore wish your Commission to use its good offices to ensure the following:
- That all the 39,276 voters referred to in your 6th September, 2017 Press Release are included in the Final Voters Register and uploaded into the server.
- That all political parties and the general public are given the opportunity to verify, object to and correct any inaccuracies concerning their details as provided for by the Public Elections Act 2012.
- That you ensure the stipulated due processes for the conduct of credible, free and fair elections are strictly adhered to at every stage that will ensure the by-in of all political parties and other relevant elections stakeholders relating to the required Final Voters Register to forestall and avoid any incidences that impinge on the integrity of the outcome of the 7th March, 2018 Elections.
National Secretary General