Full-text: Fifi Kwetey’s speech about the theft at the Electoral Commission

Estimated read time 21 min read

Following the admission by the Electoral Commission that five laptops used for Biometric Voter Registration were stolen, the General Secretary of the NDC called a press conference to address the matter. He touched on many things including the magnitude of the incident and why the security system of the EC must be overhauled.

Read the full speech below.

Ladies and gentlemen of the media, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens of Ghana thank you for your prompt response to our call. Today, we stand on the precipice of a national crisis, one that threatens the very core of our democracy and the sanctity of our forthcoming elections.

We are not here to mince words. The recent theft of critical biometric equipment under the supposed ‘secure’ watch of the Electoral Commission is not just an alarming oversight; it is a clear and present danger to our electoral integrity.

 This is not a trivial matter of misplaced property—it is a dire warning that our electoral safeguards are being compromised under our very noses.

 How can we place our trust in an Electoral Commission that fails to safeguard the very equipment essential to fulfilling its mandate in a transparent and accountable manner? How can we stand by while the very mechanisms meant to guarantee fair play are stolen away, possibly skewing the electoral landscape in favour of those currently clutching the reins of power?

 This is an outright assault on our rights as voters and on the democratic principles that our forebears fought tirelessly to establish. The lackadaisical attitude and dismissive responses from the EC officials in the face of such a breach are unacceptable and insult the intelligence of every Ghanaian.

We demand immediate and decisive action from the Electoral Commission. The time for excuses is over; the time for transparency, accountability, and rectification is now. Ghana is watching, and the world is watching. The integrity of our elections and the future of our democracy hang in the balance. Let us be clear: we will accept nothing less than a full restoration of total security for all EC logistical equipment for the upcoming elections, a thorough investigation, and complete accountability. Anything short of this is an affront to our nation’s future.

We are gathered here today not just to express our outrage but to ignite a collective demand for immediate and sweeping corrective measures. The Electoral Commission must act, and it must act now!

Before we discuss the substantive issues, I want to publicly appreciate the patriotic Ghanaian whistleblowers across various sectors who provide the NDC with vital information about blatant aberrations, abuse of power, and organised thievery within the public sector under the non-performing Akufo-Addo Bawumia government.

We all know how this non-performing and incompetent NPP government has inflicted unprecedented hardships on Ghanaians. With the staggering levels of unemployment, high inflation, a dislodged exchange rate, hikes in transportation fares and fuel prices, excruciating port charges and taxes, and crude financial haircuts that continue to impact pensioners and the middle class in particular, one would have expected the NPP government to have resigned to fate and begun preparing their handing-over notes.

But not this NPP government! How unfortunate?

They are bent on hanging onto power at all costs! But they will fail!

 The government has taken deliberate “strategic” steps toward their ignominious goal of winning elections at all costs by ensuring institutional decay in our dear country. They have appointed rabidly partisan and biased members of the NPP to independent institutions such as the judiciary and the Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana.

Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, it is unsurprising to the NDC, and we believe to many decent-minded Ghanaians, that significant components of the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits could be stolen at the headquarters of the Electoral Commission of Ghana under lock with CCTV surveillance.

We wish to emphasize that, but for the vigilance of a courageous whistleblower who alerted the NDC, and the subsequent probing by our parliamentarians in Parliament, the shocking theft of crucial biometric equipment at the EC’s heavily surveilled headquarters would have remained shrouded in secrecy. This raises deeply troubling questions: Why did the Electoral Commission not disclose this significant breach of security? What prevented them from being upfront with the political parties, the Ghanaian public, and our development partners about such a critical incident?

 How can we trust an institution, tasked with safeguarding the sanctity of our electoral process, when it conceals such vital information? Is this not indicative of a lack of goodwill or, perhaps, something more sinister? Does the EC not owe the very stakeholders it serves—the citizens of Ghana—complete transparency and accountability?

 As the situation stands, there is a startling absence of verifiable evidence that this theft was even reported to national security or the police, as claimed by the EC. No transparency, and no respect for the stakeholders. One must ask, why the silence? Why the secrecy? If the integrity of our electoral processes is to be preserved, shouldn’t the Electoral Commission be the first to champion openness and swift communication about any threats to this integrity?

 We demand answers, and we demand accountability. The Electoral Commission must explain its inaction and its choice to withhold information critical to the trust and confidence in our electoral system. The stakes are too high for such negligence or, worse, deliberate obfuscation.

Ladies and gentlemen, since the last meeting of the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) on Tuesday, April 09, 2024, and our subsequent engagements with the press, we have received new and additional information on the theft of the components of the Biometric Voters Registration (BVR) kits.

We have also become aware that this new and additional information is not unknown to officials at the top echelons of the Electoral Commission. As a result, we remain convinced that the Electoral Commission and those with powers of prosecution were and have remained ill-prepared to pursue this theft case to its logical conclusion.

This being the case, we wish to share with you the thirty-five (35) questions posed to the EC at the last IPAC meeting with the hope that by working together, enough pressure will be exerted on the EC and their collaborators within the security agencies to speak the truth about this theft which occurred under CCTV surveillance at the headquarters of the EC.

We need the truth to aid investigation and prosecution and also to prevent recurrence as we head into the December 7, 2024, presidential and parliamentary elections. We cannot have free, fair, and transparent elections when there are doubts about the sanctity of the data and equipment of the Electoral Commission of Ghana.

Before I list the questions, let me state without ambiguity that we demand a thorough unbiased independent investigation of this theft case including an independent audit of the IT system of the Electoral Commission of Ghana.

Ladies and gentlemen, the 35 questions posed to the EC at the IPAC meeting are as follows

Status and particulars of the stolen components of the Biometric Voter Registration Kits

1. Have the missing kits been found?

2. If so, when (date & time) and where were they found? How were the missing items discovered?
3. How many kits are missing and cannot be found or traced?

4. What are the serial numbers of the kits under discussion?

5. Does the EC have the purchasing invoices together with serial numbers at the time of purchase of the missing items?

6. Did the EC have an official recorded inventory of the missing items prior to the theft?

7. Is there a present inventory of such sensitive items to aid a comprehensive inquiry that can allay the fears of stakeholders?

Investigation, Arrest and Prosecution

8. When (date & time using CCTV) did the EC become aware that the items were missing, did the EC hold an immediate/emergency formal meeting to discuss the missing items?

9. If yes: (a) who attended that meeting?

(b) Are there minutes of that meeting?

(c) was it resolved at that meeting to report to the police?

10. If it was reported to the police, what is the time lapse between the discovery of the 
theft and the report to the police?

11. Who in the EC made the report to the police?

12. Is there a formal extract of the report to the police?

13. What is the status of the report?

14. Is there a weekly/regular briefing on the status of the report?

15. Has the EC received any statements or reports from the persons with personal charge of the kits regarding the loss of the kits? Kindly provide us copies of the statements or reports, if any.

16. Did the police arrest the culprit(s)? Is or are the culprit(s) on bail? Is or are the culprit(s) still in Ghana?

Possible Compromise of Voters’ Data

17. When was the last time these kits were deployed for purposes of voter registration?

18. Where were the kits kept before they were deployed?

19. Which registration stations used the missing kits?

20. Who specifically was/were in charge of the kits when they were last deployed for 
registration?

21. Did the missing kits contain any data of voters and EC apps?

22. If yes, does the EC have backups for the data stored on the missing kits?

23. If yes, had the data already been transferred either manually or electronically to the National Voters Register for purposes of voting in the future?


Preventing Recurrence

24. What are the protocols for storing such devices at the EC headquarters?

25. Were these protocols followed for the missing items?

26. Who is personally responsible for the safekeeping of these items?

27. The individuals responsible for these items, are they permanent or EC staff?

28. If temporary staff, how long have they worked for the EC?

Ladies and gentlemen, the remaining seven (7) questions making thirty-five (35) questions in all, relate to missing Biometric

Verification Devices (BVDs). Not Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) Kits.

We wish to request that in reporting, you distinguish between BVRs and BVDs! For emphasis, BVRs and BVDs are not the same.

This must be clear in our minds because the failure to make this important distinction allows the EC to throw dust into the eyes of many unsuspecting followers of this case.

Before we proceed further, let me clarify the differences between these pieces of equipment. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for our comprehension of the issues at hand. Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits and Biometric Verification Devices (BVDs) serve different roles in our electoral process, and their security directly impacts the integrity of our elections.

BVR kits are primarily utilized for voter registration. This is when new voters are enrolled, and existing registrations are updated. These kits are integral for capturing and securely storing individual biometric data—such as fingerprints and facial photographs—along with other personal details in a central electoral database. This process typically occurs months or even years before an election and is crucial for ensuring that each voter has a unique record. This not only prevents duplicate registrations but also potential electoral fraud.

In stark contrast, BVDs are deployed on election day to verify the identities of voters at polling stations. These devices, more compact than BVR kits, typically include a fingerprint scanner and a screen to display the voter’s details once their identity is confirmed. This verification ensures that the person voting matches the previously registered information, maintaining the integrity of the electoral process. It confirms each voter’s identity in real-time, preventing identity fraud and ensuring that each person votes only once.

Understanding these key differences—the timing of their use and their primary functions—is essential. BVR kits are used during the voter registration phase to create accurate and credible voter records, while BVDs are employed on the day of voting specifically for identity verification. This dual approach contributes effectively to different phases of the electoral process: BVR kits establish a credible voter database, and BVDs ensure the integrity of the actual voting process.

Together, BVR kits and BVDs form a robust framework designed to protect our electoral process and uphold its credibility. However, when components of this critical infrastructure are compromised or stolen, as we have seen, it poses a severe threat not just to the logistics of the EC on election day, but to the very foundation of our democratic rights. That is why the theft of these kits from under the watchful eyes of the EC’s surveillance cannot be taken lightly and must be addressed with the utmost seriousness and urgency.

Ladies and gentlemen, contrary to the EC’s public rebuttal that no Biometric Verification Devices (BVDs) were missing, the EC has now admitted and disclosed that, in truth, some Biometric Verification Devices (BVDs) are indeed missing! How then can we trust the integrity of the Electoral Commission when their initial denials are so blatantly contradicted by their later admissions at IPAC? What else might they be misleading us about?

Here is the alarming revelation, ladies and gentlemen: not only do we have stolen components of Biometric Voters Registration (BVRs) kits on our hands, but we are also dealing with missing Biometric Verification Devices (BVDs). This disclosure was made at the IPAC meeting on Tuesday, April 09, 2024, by the EC when they briefed stakeholders “…on The commission’s biometric equipment.”

Regarding the missing and un-retrieved Biometric Verification Devices (BVD) the NDC indicated at the IPAC meeting that many of the questions raised about the stolen components of the registration kits applied to the BVDs. Specifically, Ghanaians also needed answers to the following questions about the missing BVDs:


Question 29. Have all un-retrieved/missing BVDs been returned to the EC headquarters?

30. What are the serial numbers of these BVDs?

31. Which polling stations were the BVDs deployed to?

32. What are the names of the persons who were in charge of the BVDs when the BVDs were last deployed to polling stations?

33. What are the protocols for the deployment of BVDs to polling stations?


34. Were these protocols adhered to in respect of the missing BVDs?

35. Who has personal responsibility for the safe custody and return of BVDs deployed to polling stations?

In light of these bizarre circumstances, the Electoral Commission (EC) must address these urgent and critical questions immediately. The inaction and lack of transparency we’ve observed are not only unacceptable but deeply concerning. We, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), along with the citizens of Ghana, demand prompt and comprehensive responses to the questions we have laid out

Now let me address a matter of grave concern regarding the technical and security implications of the stolen or missing biometric equipment. Over time, some top officials and commissioners of the EC have made pronouncements that are not only weak and inadequate but also indicative of a troubling lack of understanding of the complexities of electoral security and their broader implications by the very commissioners of the EC who are supposed to be knowledgeable and act appropriately.

The assertion that the laptops contain no EC information and thus their theft poses no risk or impact apart from their financial loss was first made by Mr. Samuel Tettey, Deputy Chairperson in charge of Operations at the EC, and was repeated by Dr. Serebour Quaicoe, Director of Electoral Services, over the weekend on the Joy News File political program. They claim that the laptops are merely components of the BVR kits and can only interact or interfere with the EC’s database system when they are activated with activation codes. Therefore, the stolen laptops will have no implications since no one will be able to activate them.

Firstly, this erroneous narrative provided by Dr Serebour Quaicoe and Mr Tetteh, in their attempt to justify their inactions over the theft case by suggesting that the stolen laptops are inconsequential, betrays a worrying level of complacency and reveals EC commissioners who lack a fundamental understanding of electoral integrity mechanisms and their security implications. Their assertions are not only weak and shallow but also dangerously misleading and naive.

The need for an activation code, while a critical layer of security, is not infallible. Therefore, the focus on activation codes as the sole line of defence illustrates a grave misunderstanding of cybersecurity principles. How secure are these activation codes? Who manages them, and what protocols are in place to prevent their unauthorized dissemination? In cybersecurity, human error or malfeasance is often the greatest risk. It is not uncommon for internal threats or human errors to lead to security breaches. Can the EC guarantee that these activation codes have never been, and will never be, compromised?

Furthermore, the fact that these laptops have undergone the ‘End of Life’ process does not mitigate the risk they pose if acquired by malicious actors. Why? Because the physical laptops themselves, once part of the EC’s infrastructure, can serve as a blueprint. They can be dissected for hardware vulnerabilities, used in reverse engineering to uncover software flaws, or employed in setting up parallel systems to undermine electoral processes. How can the EC overlook such a basic tenet of cybersecurity?

Moreover, these devices, even stripped of direct electoral data, could potentially be used to create counterfeit systems or to train individuals in manipulating similar devices. In cybersecurity, access to physical devices provides critical insights into system operations, which can be exploited in numerous ways. Are we to believe that such risks are of no concern?

Let us consider the potential for these devices to be utilized in staging mock setups to test hacking strategies or to train personnel in circumventing security measures. The theft of such laptops must be seen as a direct threat to the integrity and security of our entire electoral system. It begs the question: if basic physical security cannot be maintained, how can we trust the EC to safeguard the sanctity of our electoral process?

The Dire Consequences of the Stolen Laptops

Ladies and gentlemen, the theft of the five BVR laptops from the Electoral Commission is not a trivial matter to be dismissed as a mere financial loss by the EC. The stolen laptops reveal profound vulnerabilities and pose dire consequences for the integrity of our electoral system, which we cannot afford to overlook or underestimate.

The cavalier dismissal of this theft by the EC as merely a financial loss is not only shortsighted but also reflective of a perilous disregard for the broader implications on our electoral integrity. How can we stand by when critical and sensitive equipment, entrusted to the EC and under 24/7 CCTV surveillance to conduct free and fair elections, is treated with such negligence? These pieces of equipment are essential and carry a national security risk, which is precisely why they are monitored continuously. How then can such critical assets be compromised under constant watch?

These stolen laptops represent a significant breach in the security protocols of the Electoral Commission, which suggests possible vulnerabilities that could be exploited during the actual elections. We must ask ourselves—and demand answers from the EC—about the potential for these devices to be used in crafting nefarious means to manipulate voter data or to clone voter registration processes. Is this not a recipe for electoral disaster that could question the very legitimacy of our governance?

Moreover, this incident casts a long and ominous shadow over the credibility and trustworthiness of the Electoral Commission itself. How can the Ghanaian people trust that the elections of December 2024 will be free from manipulation when the basic security of critical equipment cannot be guaranteed? Are we to simply trust, without question, in the face of such glaring lapses?

Let us consider the implications of this theft not as isolated incidents but as indicators of potentially broader systemic vulnerabilities that could be exploited to alter electoral outcomes. Each laptop, each piece of equipment in the EC’s inventory, holds the potential to influence the electoral process significantly. The theft of such devices raises critical questions about the possibility of insider threats or external breaches, which could lead to unauthorized access to sensitive systems.

In response to this breach, the assurances provided by the Electoral Commission’s officials are not only inadequate but also demonstrate a troubling lack of understanding of the complexities and necessities of robust electoral security. Their assurances do not suffice in the face of potential electoral tampering or fraud. We cannot and must not accept this.

We demand, with utmost urgency, a full and transparent investigation into the theft, conducted with oversight from credible, independent international bodies. We further call for a comprehensive review and overhaul of all security protocols within the EC to ensure such breaches cannot occur in the future.

The integrity of the Electoral Commission—and by extension, the democratic integrity of Ghana—must not be compromised. We stand before you today to declare that nothing less than a rigorous, transparent, and secure electoral process is acceptable. Our democracy, the will of the Ghanaian people, and the future stability of our nation depend on it.

We remain vigilant and unyieldingly committed to safeguarding democracy in Ghana. Let us move forward with resolve and caution, ensuring that every measure is taken to secure our electoral process, one that reflects the true will of the people. This is not just about the security of laptops but the sanctity of our vote.

Conclusion

 Ladies and gentlemen, as we stand on the brink of an electoral crisis precipitated by the baffling theft of crucial biometric equipment under the ostensibly vigilant eyes of the Electoral Commission (EC), the gravity of this situation cannot be overstated. The inaction and opacity displayed by the EC not only jeopardize the integrity of our upcoming elections but also erode the very foundations of trust and democracy upon which our nation is built.

The consequences of the EC’s inaction are profound and far-reaching. Each day that passes without a clear resolution and accountability only deepens the public’s distrust and casts long shadows over the fairness and transparency of our electoral process. The EC’s failure to act swiftly and decisively in this critical moment could lead to an electoral process fraught with skepticism and questions of legitimacy, which Ghana can ill afford at such a pivotal juncture in our democratic journey.

In response to this dire situation, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) has laid out clear and non-negotiable demands to ensure the sanctity of our electoral system is preserved and restored:

  1. An official written response to the 35 critical questions posed by the NDC at the IPAC meeting, addressing the status, recovery efforts, and oversight regarding the stolen biometric equipment.
  2. We demand an immediate and comprehensive investigation into the theft of the BVR laptops and related biometric equipment including a forensic audit of the voters register. This investigation must be conducted by an independent body, supplemented with international observers, to ensure neutrality and thoroughness. The outcome must provide a detailed report that not only comprehensively identifies those actually responsible but also outlines significant corrective measures to prevent such breaches in the future.
  3. Furthermore, we call for a complete audit of the EC’s inventory and security measures. This audit should encompass all BVR and BVD equipment and must be carried out by an independent auditor to verify the integrity of all electoral materials and processes.

Let me be unequivocal: these are not merely requests; they are demands echoing the will of the people for a transparent, fair, and secure electoral process. The eyes of the nation, and indeed the international community, are firmly fixed on the actions of the Electoral Commission. How the EC responds to this crisis will not only determine the credibility of the forthcoming elections but also define the future of democracy in Ghana.

We stand ready to hold the Electoral Commission accountable, to challenge every inconsistency, and to confront any obfuscation. The NDC, alongside the citizens of Ghana, will accept nothing less than full transparency, immediate action, and concrete solutions to this egregious breach of electoral security. The time for action is now; the future of Ghana’s democracy is in the balance, and we will settle for nothing less than stringent safeguards that ensure every Ghanaian’s vote is counted and protected.

Ladies and gentlemen, as we forge ahead, the NDC and Ghanaians will not be swayed by mere assurances based on nothing by the EC. We will continue to demand action, enforce accountability, and ensure that our electoral system is not only secure but beyond reproach. Our resolve is firm, our commitment is unwavering, and our demands are clear. The Electoral Commission must act, and they must act now.

This is a defining moment for our democracy, and the NDC is fully mobilized to ensure that the right prevails. We are alert, we are prepared, and we are uncompromising. The EC must do the right thing, and they must do it now. Let this be a warning: the eyes of the nation, and the world, are watching.

Thank you all. God bless our homeland Ghana!!!

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