As Malawi prepares for the 2019 Tripartite Elections, donors have said they expect a reduced election budget and an efficient electoral process following a successful national registration exercise.
European Union Ambassador Marchel Gerrmann made the remarks at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe yesterday during an official announcement of mass registration statistics and the end of mass registration exercise which has enabled 9 186 689 eligible Malawians register for the national identity card. The figure represents 100 percent coverage of the projected number.
While the successful implementation of the exercise calls for celebration, Gerrmann, who was speaking on behalf of other development partners, warned that there is more to be done for the country to reap benefits of the system which include improving service delivery and strengthening democracy.
He said donors invested in this project to see improved governance and an increased tax base if the national ID system is efficiently used.
Said Gerrmann: “We hope the office of the Chief Secretary will be instrumental in how government would start the detailed planning on the multiple uses of the new national ID. The first such crucial linkage was made between NRB [National Registration Bureau] and the Malawi Electoral Commission, just before the mass registration campaign started at the end of May 2017
“We expect that this will improve the integrity of the voters’ register and, more importantly, reduce the cost of the elections. The introduction of ID cards should translate into significant cost-savings on the voter registration process and the overall elections budget.”
According to Gerrmann, the reduction of the elections budget will be a first test-case for the returns of the National Registration (NRIS) project and an opportunity to demonstrate the potential of the investment.
The linkage between national ID and elections attracted suspicion from oppositions parties who branded it a ploy by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administrations to rig the next elections.
During the budget meeting of Parliament between May and June this year, opposition members of Parliament (MPs) took government to task over why the mass national registration exercise was marred by irregularities which included malfunctioning equipment.
In his address, President Peter Mutharika boasted about how he has managed to implement the programme against a popular pessimistic view that it would not work.
Mutharika said with the IDs government will flush out ghost workers in the public service and save money.
He said the project is a game-changer as it will improve service delivery such as administration of the Farm Input Subsidy Programme, social cash transfer and generally accelerate e-commerce. n