Clean common roll for 2017


TIME, as Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato rightly points out, is not on his side.
So is the funding he needs to ensure that the updating of the national roll and the subsequent checking processes are completed well before the issuing of writs next April.
Not only that, all other processes and machineries vital to the proper conduct of the election have to be ready – checked and re-checked.
His is an unenviable task, given the importance of his mandate to conduct a free and fair election so that the people are able to exercise their democratic right to elect the leaders they want. That is in itself is crucial in a democracy.
But he is yet to receive the funding and support he needs to make it happen successfully as is required of him. That is unlikely to happen.
Of course the Government cannot be totally blamed for Gamato’s predicament. The current economic and cash-flow problems is not of its own making. The drop in global commodity prices has hit the country hard and will be for some time yet.
Given the current situation, there is no guarantee that the 2017 election will be allocated the levels of funding desired.
This is the reality the commission faces and it should be prepared to receive much less than what it had asked for. The solution lies in cutting costs here and there as it progresses.
No one knows better what areas to target than the commission itself.
For a start, preventative measures have to be taken to ensure election officials, police and others involved during the election do not abuse funds.
Officials will face temptations for abuse giving them the chance to make as much money as they can through such things as overtime and travelling expenses. Proper vetting by those in charge are therefore warranted.
The Government, like Gamato, has the responsibility and duty to see that the national and local level government elections, held together for the first time, proceed as smoothly as possible, according to law.
Apart from the task of getting the offices in the provinces and districts set up, the training of polling officials and security arrangements, it also has to treat service providers fairly.
Everyone who provided services to the Electoral Commission in 2012, and the LLG elections the following year, should have been paid by now. They cannot be expected to provide the same services again next year if their bills had not been settled satisfactorily. No one expects them to.
Understood the commission’s funding predicament has allowed this problem to drag on.  Some of the service providers again brought this matter up as recently as last month. They cannot  be ignored because the commission may have to deal with them again.
On the progress of the national roll update exercise, Gamato told the nation last week that the “ghost” names which had created so much problems among voters and elections officials in 2012 have been sorted out. Well and good.
The last think we want is some MPs securing their seats through the assistance of these “ghosts”. We certainly hope it will never be the case.
The commission is confident that the fake names on the 2012 common roll have been removed and new fresh up-to-date data has been entered to ensure a cleaner authentic register of people which can be relied upon.
Similar attempts have been made in the past to clean the common roll which in instances had been inflated by ghost names for the benefit of particular candidates. It is unlikely that the electoral commission will deal with all the fake names adequately.
For 2017, the electoral commission is entering new data and hopes to, within the next few months, put together a near accurate listing of all eligible voters.
If the electoral commission is to successfully complete a reliable electoral roll for the elections, it needs  the support of provincial officials who are on the ground.
The commission is currently conducting training in the provinces for election officials to equip themselves with skills and knowledge vital in such an important national exercise.
Getting the electoral roll out in time for publication, objections and final printing for use at the election remains a challenge which Gamato himself acknowledged last week.
Everyone demands and expects a fair and free 2017 election. In the face of challenges such as funding, Gamato seems confident and determined to deliver what the people expect of him.
He knows that the people will accept nothing less.

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