Paper trail will cost N$160m

Chief electoral officer Theo Mujoro says the ECN is sticking with its position that a voter-verified paper audit trail is out of the question for this year's general election.

22 January 2019 | Politics

It will cost Namibia N$160 million to acquire voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) functionality for electronic voting machines (EVMs).

However, it will not be possible to acquire the technology before the next general election because the Indian company that provided the EVMs used in the 2014 polls will be busy with the Indian elections later this year.

This is according to chief electoral officer Theo Mujoro, who spoke to Namibian Sun recently.

The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) also maintains its position that the EVMs with the current technology have served Namibia well despite an increasing demand for the VVPAT functionality.

Namibia's use of electronic voting machines without a verifiable paper trail is set to once again become a contentious issue ahead of this year's general election.

“Should Namibia want to go the DRC option then there is a price tag that comes with that.”





I think it could be more than N$160 million,” Mujoro said.

“There is the DRC voting technology and there is the VVPAT that we could get from India. Right now it is not possible, because India is holding its Lok Sabha elections in May.

“The manufacturer of the EVMs and the VVPATS for the Indian Electoral Commission is commissioned to manufacturer solely for the Indian electoral commissions. They cannot at this time do jobs for any other country.”

The ECN held a meeting with a parliamentary standing committee last month to discuss the issues around the EVMS.

Mujoro said this is the position that ECN will put to political parties when they meet to discuss the issues surrounding the EVMs.

“Our position we maintain that the EVM has served this country well. We will make it clear to them that the EVM has a paper trail functionality, however not a voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) functionality.

“What the VVPAT means is when the voter interacts with the voting machine and presses their selection, the VVPAT generates a small slip or glass screen. The voter is now able to verify and then once they confirm a small slip like a receipt will fall into the box,” he explained.

With the current technology the court can ask for a certain machine if a vote is disputed.

This is despite the VVPAT being used in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and India, which is the main manufacturer of the EVMs.

Mujoro reminded Namibian political parties not to forget all the problems and issues with ballot papers that had resulted in court cases.

“Let's not forget about allegations and suspicions of ballot paper stuffing, let's not forget about allegations of printing more ballot papers than required, and let's not forget about the tender vote problems because of manual ballot papers.

“We strongly feel that the EVM has effectively dealt with these problems,” he said.

Local commentator Frederico Links did not buy Mujoro's excuse.

“What nonsense is that? Since when does a supplier say he cannot deliver?” asked Links.

According to him, the ECN had ample time to sort out any issues related to the use of EVMs.

“We had four years to sort this thing out, why are things being done in this way?” he added.

According to him, this would create unnecessary suspicion.

“The ECN is lurching from controversy to controversy and [this] does not reflect well. There are just so many questions,” said Links.

Links also felt that it was time for the ECN to conclude the matter on the issue of a verifiable audited paper trail.

The ECN was allocated a budget of N$66.9 billion for the 2018/19 fiscal year.

JEMIMA BEUKES

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