What you need to know:
EC asked SMARTMATIC, a foreign company, to remove multiple registrations ahead of next year’s elections
Electoral Commission (EC) has sent the national voters’ register to the Netherlands for verification even as insiders disclosed that this was done without the knowledge of some commissioners and other stakeholders.
Concerned officials at the EC told Daily Monitor that the voter register was flown to Amsterdam about two or three weeks ago to do what sources have called “duplicate analysis” with full knowledge of EC chairperson Simon Byabakama and senior officials in the IT department and data management.
Daily Monitor has since established that EC asked SMARTMATIC, a foreign company, to remove multiple registrations ahead of next year’s elections. This work has previously been done by National Identification and Registration Authority (Nira).
Daily Monitor could not ascertain the legal regime EC officials used to take the national voter register out of the country. Details on the procurement of the foreign company and the agreement were never disclosed nor the inability of Nira to do the job.
Without delving into the Amsterdam deal, Nira spokesperson Gilbert Kadilo said they work with EC to process data including removing duplications.
“We share with them data, we did that in 2016, we have done the same now and we are going to be doing that in future, that’s standard that we work with EC,” he said.
EC yesterday confirmed that the data for 17,658,527 registered voters was flown out of the country as part of the process to compile, maintain, revise and update the voters’ register in fulfilment of their mandate in the Constitution.
Mr Paul Bukenya, the EC spokesperson, yesterday said EC improved technology and will be using the Biometric Voter Verification System (BVVS) in the 2021 General Election unlike in 2016 where they used the kit alone.
He also said they could not buy servers to manage the duplications and opted to use their vendor SMARTMATICS. He, however, did not disclose how much they have paid for the activity and whether political parties knew about the deal.
“One of the technologies, we are going to use is the BVVS. Part of configuring the system requires introducing the register to the BVVS system. The BVVS tender was awarded to SMARTMATICS. We have started the process of authenticating the voters to ensure that only legible voters appear on the register and that they will vote once,” Mr Bukenya said yesterday in an interview.
He added: “Part of the preparation stages is what was shared with Netherlands. The copy of the register was shared for purposes of doing what we call authenticating or de-duplicating in case. There is a duplicate on the register, it is identified and removed. We don’t have server capacity here to do that and we can’t buy the whole system for just that part which we can do with the vendor. There should be no cause for worry. Our register is here. A copy was taken for purposes of authenticating.”
Sources told Daily Monitor that Sam Agaba from the IT department and Chris Namanya in the voter management department were key in ensuring the data is flown to Amsterdam.
Mr Bukenya, however, said one officer took the voters data to Amsterdam to witness the changes introduced to the register and that he returned this week and is working on a report.
Mr Bukenya said SMARTMATIC managed biometric voter verification data in the 2016 polls and that the “register cleanup” they are doing is a decision of the EC. He denied reports that some commissioners were not consulted on the matter.
“This is part of our processes of finalising the register. I can confirm that there are some processes on the register that are going on and this involves working with our vendor SMARTMATIC and that there was a trip to the Netherlands to perform technical aspects which were witnessed by our staff. This is a decision by the commission,” Mr Bukenya added.
Opposition leaders led by Ms Betty Aol Ochan questioned EC motive and wondered why sensitive data would be shared with third parties without involving all the stakeholders.
Last week, Opposition presidential candidates questioned EC for giving them soft copies of the voter register without individual photos for easy identification.
Citing the Constitution, Justice Simon Byabakama, the EC chairperson, defended their decision.
“The Commission shall transmit the voters’ register to every political party and organisation taking part in an election an electronic copy of the voters register immediately after nomination day but before polling day and an updated paper copy of the register containing photographs of the voters to be used on polling day, two weeks before polling day,” Justice Byabakama said.