Barely weeks after Malawi Congress Pa r t y (MCP) alleged anomalies in the national registration and Malawi Electoral Commi s s ion (MEC) databases, Information and Communications Technology Association of Malawi (Ictam) has called for an independent audit of the same.
In a written response yesterday following the association’s statement, Ictam president Bram Fud z u l a n i s a id an independent audit and cleaning of the MEC and National Registration Bureau (NRB) databases ahead of the July 2 fresh presidential election is critical to building stakeholder confidence in the process.
He said: “The system irregularities that we are mostly concerned with are not necessarily about registration of minors, but general computer system issues such as registration of an individual in the system with a future date of birth.”
Fudzulani said Ictam has since initiated dialogue with MEC and NRB to assess and verify whether the allegations made by some election stakeholders are anything the country should worry about. He said that at the moment the association does not have a clear understanding of the irregularities in the two systems.
He said the voters’ register should be cleared of any irregularity and that the registration of people in the national identity (ID) card system towards voter registration should be clearly explained by both NRB and MEC to clear suspicions.
B i ome t r i c N R B registration is a prerequisite for one to register as a voter. NRB registers individuals for national IDs from the age of 16, however, those aged 18 and above are eligible to register to vote.
D u r i n g a p r e s s conference addressed by MCP president Lazarus Chakwera on April 29, information technology expert Daud Suleman alleged that the MEC and NRB databases were compromised.
He alleged that the database showed that there were 4 367 voters who neither had NRB ID cards nor receipts, but were appearing in MEC’s voters’ roll. He claimed that there were 37 890 voters with no national IDs in the MEC voter register and that 3.7 million are registered in the NRB database but have no ID numbers.
On whether there is ample time for the audit in view of the fact that the fresh presidential election could either be held on June 23 or July 2, Fudzulani said if the task is given priority, there is enough time to resolve the issues before the election.
“The system audit can
take time depending on the scope and complexity of the system being dealt with and we hope that priority will be given to this activity so that Malawians can be put in the light before the polling day and we believe this will also foster confidence in the voters,” he said.
In its statement, Ictam stated that independent consultants will have a thorough audit system check to determine whether MEC and NRB systems and data integrity are aligned
in accordance with the Electronic Transactions and Cyber Security Act of 2016. in accordance with the
The statement added that exposure, manipulation and exploitation of information dur ing the elect ion period risks undermining fundamental democratic processes as provided for in the Constitution.
Reads the statement in part: “Therefore, the allegations of system anomalies and data integrity concerns must be a cause of great anxiety to the entire nation on the quality, integrity and reliability of both the national identification system and the voter registration process.”
In a separate interview yesterday, MEC director of media and public relations Sangwani Mwafulirwa acknowledged Ictam’s recommendations, but said the commission will respond later.
He said: “Ictam is one of our stakeholders and we are constantly in touch with them. The commission will respond in due course.”
NRB chief director Mackford Somanje, on the other hand, insisted that the bureau is audited by the National Audit Office (NAO); hence, no need to have another firm auditing it.
“Audit is done by the National Audit Office, it has a fully-fledged IT department and an audit is also currently underway. Why should NRB be dragged into this?” he said before cutting off the line
I n h i s r e a c t i o n , Malawi Congress Party (MCP) secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka said: “Actually, our legal team is looking at how it can ensure that MEC does a system audit. So, if Ictam is making such recommendations, then it just adds weight to the demands our party is putting on MEC to allow an independent audit.”
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesperson Nicholas Dausi, who is also Minister of Homeland Security, yesterday asked for more time to consult before comment ing , saying: “Let me consult the director of elections and other party officials before I can comment.”
Efforts to speak to UTM Party director of publicity Joseph Chidanti Malunga proved futile as he did not pick up our phone calls on numerous attempts. The party’s director of elections Paul Chibingu, also referred us back to Malunga.
During a National Elections Consultative Forum (Necof) Meeting in Mangochi last week, MEC chairperson Jane Ansah proposed to stakeholders that the elections be held on June 23. She said MEC cannot set an exact date for the fresh poll.
Prior to the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal judgement del ivered on May 8, both UTM Party and MCP alleged that the governing DPP was employing rigging tactics ahead of the fresh election by, among others, registering minors.
However, the seven-judge panel of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal stopped new voter registration, saying the electoral body should use the voters’ register used in the disputed May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
The court also upheld the judgement of the five-judge panel of the High Court of Malawi sitting as the Constitutional Court which on February 3 nullified the May 21 2019 presidential election over alleged irregularities and ordered a fresh presidential election within 150 days