Your Excellency, Mr Ami Mehl,
You would recall that the USA wing of The Coalition to Elect Nana Addo & Bawumia (CENAB-USA) wrote you an open letter through Ghanaweb.com and other online news outlets about some concerns over the specific role(s) that STL played in the 2012 elections of Ghana, the conflicting statements from officialdom on STL’s alleged involvement in results transmission, their (STL) deafening silence on the matter, and, what we saw as the need for your high office to intervene. Please see: http://mail.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/An-Open-Letter-to-the-Israeli-Ambassador-to-Ghana-430381.
Your Excellency, we have been privileged and humbled to learn that your office has taken steps to seek clarity on the matters that we raised. This holds true and gives well deserving meaning to the attributes of your country as a friend of Ghana, a friend of democracy. We are extremely grateful for giving our open letter the needed attention.
It is recalled that the Minister of Interior, Prosper Bani, on Tuesday, March 29, 2016 issued a statement, saying, “STL is the company contracted by the Electoral Commission to transmit tallied election results.”
Two weeks after we wrote our open letter to Your Excellency, the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission was on air announcing that the Commission has no contract with the EC to transmit results.
Four years earlier, on Saturday, December 8, 2012, the day after the general elections, the then EC Chairman, Dr. Kwadwo Afari Gyan, had issued a similar statement, which said, “The Commission’s attention has been drawn to allegations that it has engaged the services of a company to do electronic transmission and collation of results on its behalf. We wish to state emphatically that no such engagement has been made, neither is the Commission doing electronic transmission of results.”
Until then, what was known was that STL had won the open international bid in 2011 to supply and maintain the biometric verification devices used for the biometric registration and verification, and manage the data of registered voters.
STL AND RESULTS TRANSMISSION IN 2012
Dr. Afari Gyan’s December 8, 2012 statement was in reaction to angry supporters of the New Patriotic Party storming the Dzorwulu offices of STL over allegations that transmitted results were being changed in the premises. Party representatives, some with IT expertise, including Joe Anokye of the NPP and Dr Nii Narku Quaynor of the NDC, visited the Dzorwulu office of STL, in the company of security agents, to investigate the allegations.
Perhaps, unknown to the EC then, in fact, staff members of STL were transparent enough and openly showed to the political representatives evidence of the role they were asked by the EC to play regarding results transmission, which they said was limited to providing only “backup communication (Radio/Satellite) lines to support facsimile transmission of results.” There is an official video of the entire meeting captured by the Ghana Police.
The question then, Your Excellency, is this: why was the EC so manifestly reluctant to share this seemingly harmless information with the general public? Our open letter to you was motivated by a few considerations. One, we simply do not trust the Electoral Commission. Two, STL appears to have a ‘No Comment’ policy covering its contractual relationship with the EC in Ghana, which does not help. More importantly, the 2016 general elections–– coming on the heels of the disputed 2012 polls, and after two terms of the ruling NDC, and at a time of grave socio-economic challenges facing Ghanaians–– can either make or break the country’s young democracy. Ghana cannot enter another election with any such thick clouds of suspicion on the role being played by strategic vendors in the electoral process.
Ghanaians demand and deserve full transparency and integrity in this regard. Your Excellency, we do not underestimate the influence that the international community, especially Israel, can play in helping Ghana emerge from this year’s contest with its stability and democracy fully intact and, possibly, enhanced for the greater project of consolidating democracy in Africa. The diplomatic intervention that we seek should not be construed to mean interference. The Government of Israel, we wish to stress, cannot be an ordinary bystander in this, at least, because of the strategic, sensitive role that STL, a Ghanaian registered company with Israeli management, is playing in Ghana’s electoral process.
Thus, our decision to write to you was necessitated by the above considerations, and our confidence in Your Excellency, personally, as a listening ambassador and the global recognition of the Israeli State as a functioning democracy that knows all too well the cost of conflict, tensions, suspicions and instability. We have so far not been disappointed.
We are told by our sources at the EC that Your Excellency’s intervention helped to persuade Mrs Charlotte Osei to grant a television interview to TV3 on April 30, 2016. She used the opportunity to eventually throw some light on the contractual role of STL. She described STL as “a strategic vendor” that “provides the biometric registration kit that we use for the creation of the biometric register.” She also mentioned STL as the supplier of the Voter Management System (VMS) that the EC uses to manage the registration database. STL again, she said, provides the Wide Area Network (WAN), which is used to transmit registration data from the districts to the centre. Also, STL supplies the biometric verification devices used on election day, the EC boss added. In her words, the EC works closely with the STL. “STL maintains the database with our staff. We sit with them and they work closely with us,” she stressed.
E-TRANSMISSION OF RESULTS IN 2016
Your Excellency, our focus is not to dwell on the past, but to only use the past as a guide into the future and see how best Ghana can remedy some of the situations casting a dark pall over the 2012 general elections. Key among these is the transmission of election results. Your Excellency, we have taken note of the fact that the EC has opened tender for IT companies to bid for the contract to electronically transfer results as part of its internal and external reform mechanisms to ensure a “free, fair and credible elections.”
We know of 16 companies, most of them international, that submitted bids last month for the procurement of “ICT-Based Election Results Management Systems” (ERMS) for the 2016 November or December general elections. STL is not on the list. So, what is clear is that beyond the role that STL currently plays, which includes the provision of communications lines for the EC, the Commission is going ahead to contract another firm to undertake the specific task of transmitting result electronically. This takes us now to some lingering but vital technical issues that must be addressed:
1. Will this e-transmission, for instance, be done independent of STL’s WAN?
2. Will the EC wait until it gets all the Statement of Polls and Collation Sheets physically delivered at the National Collation Centre before declaring the presidential results?
3. How will we ensure that all the BVD machines will work on the D-Day and that we will not revisit the situation in 2012, where polling had to be postponed in but a few areas because of issues with the verification device?
4. Is the EC committed to giving Ghanaians a clean register, since so far, majority of Ghanaians do not think so?
5. Will the process of cleaning up the register, in line with the Supreme Court decision, be done at all?
6. If so, will it be done transparently and in time for the proposed November 7 D-Day?
7. Will the process of removing all successful challenges from the electoral roll and presenting each party with the complete register be done in time for November 7?
8. Will EC and STL ensure that tested and reliable BVD machines are deployed at all 29,000 polling stations and in time for the proposed November 7, 2016 date for the general elections?
9. In short, is Ghana ready for November 7?
You Excellency, these are some of the questions that Ghanaians expect the entire diplomatic community to focus on. Not just Israel. However, Israel, we believe, have a special interest in seeing Ghana getting it right. So long as STL continues to play a key strategic role in our electoral affairs, Israel has a morale responsibility to show greater interest in helping Ghana to get it right.
A prosperous, peaceful democratic Ghana is a prosperous, peaceful, democratic Israel. We continue to enjoy the unbridled diplomacy and enviable camaraderie between our nation and Israel. We know Israel will always be by Ghana’s side.
Your Excellency, CENAB-USA counts on your usual cooperation.