Awarding the Biometric Voter Registration tender to Chinese company Laxton Group Ltd has opened Pandora’s box, with the civic society suggesting the vetting process might have been compromised.
According the the Election Resource Center (ERC), the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) did not follow due diligence as it did not proceed to give evidence as to how they settled for Laxton Ltd.
The Election Resource Centre (ERC) notes the decision by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to award a tender for supply of Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits to Laxton Group Limited. Following observation of the site validation test of BVR kits by the ERC in April 2017 where Laxton from China and Dermalog from Germany exhibited their kits and carried out laboratory and field tests, the ERC acknowledges that Laxton performed better.
“However, ZEC must provide evidence that the Executive did not influence the decision to award the tender to Laxton in order to address perceptions around ZEC’s independence given the fact that the State Procurement Board was involved in the consideration of which company to pick. The Election Management Body must independently execute their mandate and must be seen to be independent as stipulated in the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the SADC principles and guidelines on elections which Zimbabwe is a signatory to,” said ERC.
The two firms Lexton and Dermalog were charging between $4 million and $5,5 million each for the equipment. ERC however insist that on the full alignment of the Electoral Act with the Constitution ahead of key electoral processes without which the independence of ZEC and the constitutionality of electoral processes can be viewed with doubt.
“In as much as it is critical to ensure that these perceptions are addressed through professional and non-partisan conduct by ZEC in administering voter registration, the focus of election stakeholders must extend beyond the choice of company set to supply the equipment for voter registration.
“The ERC insists that stakeholders ought to pay particular attention to ensuring that the upcoming voter registration exercise conforms to international voter registration principles including integrity, inclusiveness, accessibility, transparency, accountability, and an informed electorate,” said ERC.
The BVR package include a laptop with encryptable USB ports, internal high capacity, extended life battery which lasts for a minimum of six hours before recharging, digital signature pad and pen, fingerprint scanner, ID and document scanner, digital camera, solar kits and encryptable USB flash disks that are not usable on any other media.
ERC added that stakeholders must plug any loopholes that may compromise the integrity of the voter registration exercise by: Insisting on the full alignment of the Electoral Act with the Constitution to address crucial election credibility issues such as the independence of ZEC in administering all electoral processes which will go a long way in ensuring that policy and practice are in sync with the provisions of the Constitution, Exhaustively training and deploying monitors and agents at all BVR sites and hold ZEC accountable, Exhaustively training and deploying personnel to monitor transfer of data and processing of the same date and Compelling ZEC to be accountable and ensure a timeous release of voter registration regulations and the road map to the voter registration process.