Biometric voting system may not see light of day

PLANS by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to introduce biometric voter registration (BVR) and compilation of the voters’ roll before the 2018 general elections are under threat as the commission has no funds to roll out the programme which requires an excess of US$50 million.

Wongai Zhangazha

Zec was only allocated a paltry US$8,3 million in the 2016 national budget.

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BVR is a technology that captures unique physical features such as fingerprints and facial scans for the purposes of identification.

Unlike other options where the unique point of identification is the national identification number and the photographic image verifiable by the naked eye, BVR uses a more sophisticated and reliable system where physical features unique to each individual are used.

BVR has the advantage of minimising electoral fraud by among other things preventing voters from casting their ballot twice.
A senior Zec official however revealed the commission was operating on a shoestring budget and was failing to pay its administrative staff on time.

The lack of resources has compromised the BVR which requires a lot of money for procurement, operation and maintenance of the system.

“Zec has adopted biometric voter registration but it has faced challenges of financing the BVR. For it to be implemented, Zec needs about US$50 million. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will give Zec something like US$32 million and government has to put in US$18 million. For Zec to get the US$32 million, government must commit that it will provide its share,” said an official familiar with the developments.

“The problem is government does not have the money and there is a danger that as we get closer to 2018, if no money is found, BVR might be affected and the election might be a disaster given that indications are that the 2018 elections are going to be hotly contested.”

The official revealed that Zec cannot look for funds on its own because “the financing model for Zec is such that government must be the one that makes an agreement for Zec”.

The official said Zec is working with consultants from Brazil, India and Malawi seconded by the UNDP as it prepares to roll out BVR.

Manually creating a voters roll, the official said, would be more costly as it would require US$65 million.

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