The Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (ECSL) has reacted to the main opposition, All People Congress Party (APC) concerns over the Voter Identification cards issued to citizens ahead of next month’s general elections.ย 

ECSL registered their reactions in a letter addressed to the APC Secretary General on 19th May 2023.

Read the letter below:

โ€œI am directed by the Commission to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 24th April 2023 on the above subject matter and to further respond to various issues you highlighted. We are also in receipt of other correspondence as recent as 9th of May requesting for extension of time for collection of voter registration cards. I would like to start on the premise that all the issues raised have been discussed at various meetings such as Political Parties Liaison Committee Meetings (PPLC). During these meetings (PPLC) which are held fortnightly, the ECSL informs and consults political parties on electoral matters while political parties also raise issues of concern to them for the attention of the ECSL.

The ECSL has in the last month decentralized the PPLC meetings to the 16 electoral districts to give opportunity to political party leaderships at district levels to share information with the ECSL In addition to these meetings, the leadership of the ECSL is always open to discussions geared towards enhancing the electoral process and your party (APC) has effectively made use of this opportunity. Recall that on your request, on 6 April 2023 the Commission held a frank and extensive meeting with you and a cross section of the APC executive members, and the Chief Electoral Commissioner responded to all the issues you raised. The Commission was stunned that you subsequently catalogued the same issues in your letter of 24 April 2023 and recently in a public statement.

While the ECSL continue to assure the leadership of your party of its commitment to continued engagement and consultation with your party and all other political parties as and when required, the Commission wishes to remind you that it is an independent institution with full powers to execute its functions as prescribed by law without control from any person, body of persons or institutions. As a public institution, procurement processes at the ECSL are carried out in accordance with the Public Procurement Act which the Commission strictly adheres to. Therefore, the procurement process that led to the procurement of Voter Identification Cards followed laid down procurement rules which include bid adverts, submission of bids, bid opening, bid evaluation, submission of evaluation report to NPPA and NPPA’s approval of recommended vendor. Adherence to all these procurement processes, therefore, indicates the procurement process for Voter Registration Cards was transparent and was done within the ambits of the law. The bid documents clearly states that voter registration cards should be printed in coloured.

This explains why all other features of the voter registration cards were printed in coloured save for most of the photos which were printed in black or grey colour. The Commission has always maintained that the voter registration cards have four unique security features to prevent counterfeiting of voter registration cards. These security features include: Microprinting can be identified by magnifier or zooming. A hologram foil coat of arm which is visible and touchable. A guilloche pattern which is clear ly visible at the background An invisible coat of arm only visible by UV Lamb-365mm frequency All these features have been made public, tried, and tested in the presence of journalists. Members of the public have also proven the veracity of these security features. Your claim that the report from your Information Technology (IT) specialists on inspecting the security features of the voter cards is just an ersatz indicates a blatant chicanery to malign the Electoral Commission. It is therefore disingenuous for you to claim that the black and white photos of the voter registration card was a “deliberate move… to refuse qualified voters whose facial photos are unidentifiable from voting.” Moreover, ECSL wishes to remind you that while voter registration cards are essential in identifying voters on polling day, they are not by no means the only means by which voters can be identified. The voter register at each polling station will also have coloured photos of registered voters with a wider dimension for easier identification of voters. Furthermore, the ECSL will reduce the number of rows on the voter register to print much larger photos that will be much clearer. All these are measures being put in place to guarantee the credibility of the voting process. Notwithstanding, the Commission has engaged the vendor on this anomaly on the photo of some voter’s cards and we have agreed on appropriate remedy and we will inform the public accordingly. The Electoral Commission has on numerous occasions, both in press statements and at its usual PPLC meetings, explained the processes of the conduct of the update of voter registration. In these discussions, the Commission has on many instances clarified issues surrounding duplicate and underage registration. Be reminded that during the de-duplication of voter registration data, the ECSL invited political parties to observe the process and your political party, the All Peoples Congress applied to observe and indeed observed the de- duplication process at the ECSL Data Centre in Wellington. Representatives of your party and other political parties witnessed the process daily. During this process, examples of duplicated and underage registrants were presented to all observers. Further examples have been presented in several PPLC meetings in the presence of your political party representatives. On issues of photo less, mismatched, and misplaced registrants, the ECSL had envisaged these challenges and had put in place procedures to effectively deal with them.

During the Voter Registration Card Distribution process, mobile tablets were made available at all distribution centers to capture pictures of photo less and mismatched registrants and to relocate misplaced registrants to their correct registration centers. These procedures have been able to largely resolve these challenges. We are, however, constrained to let you know that we have addressed all the issues you have raised and if you have any further concerns, please contact us at the earliest opportunity. The Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (ECSL) remain committed to engaging partners both local and international in furtherance of credible multi-tier elections in June 2023.

We encourage all our partners to adhere to the rules and regulations including best practices and as oral guarantors to our democracy, we remain committed to the same rules and regulations including our guiding principles. Please accept the assurances of the Commission’s highest esteem.”