By Aramata Jatta
As part of its oversight functions the National Assembly Select Committee on Regional Government and Lands, Ombudsman and IEC, on Monday visited the office of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) at the Election House along the Berthing Hardin highway.
The IEC chairman told the law makers that one of the key issues they are trying to address is voter apathy , his institution is considering merging the presidential and national assembly elections ; and also merge all local government elections. This he said means instead of have separate days for our local and central government election, we will now have a single day for each of our elections.
He argued that in other do this amalgamation the Gambia has to move from the marble to ballot papers. The Chairman said it’s more cost effective as more candidates are now interested in contesting in elections.
Sanbujang Njie the Chief Executive Officer of IEC deliberated on the introduction of ballot papers and told the committee that before imposing the new system on the electorates the IEC will first embark on a public consultation to gage the opinion of the electorates as whether to adopted the system or not.
‘’ and after the consultation we will make a final report which we will take to the ministry of justice and they will table the report at the National Assembly for endorsement.
When members of the select committee put to the IEC to use National ID for both elections and identity purposes ; Njie argued that it not possible because there can be cheating as they do not control the data of the ID.
Highlighting some of the challenges the IEC face, CEO Njie lamented that the ministry of finance has ensured infrastructural development and also allocated funds to them. The problem however is not with the National office but instead with the regional offices as over D3million was used just for refurbishment of regional offices.
He revealed that most of their regional offices are owned by government department and they are asked to return them leaving them without offices in some regions.
Njie stressed the need for the government to inform the ICE before implementing any decision concerning their institutions. He argued that the IEC is an independent body and that they should be given their due respect. He made reference to the Constitutional Review Commission’s recent meeting with the political parties on elections without their knowledge.
Isatou Jallow Ndure member of the commission, appeal to the political parties to allocate 30% of women in winning positions by sensitizing them in workshops and prepare them to promote women inclusiveness in national development and decision making.
The parliamentary committee were informed that more than a decade now the IEC did not have an I.T director. They were further told that and in the database supervisor’s office the data security is a challenge as it can be lost at any given moment.
Earlier the Chairman of the select committee Hon. Musa Amul Nyassi told members of the Commission that the purpose of their visit was to engage them (IEC) to know their operations, limits, plans, challenges as well as how they have gone with the electoral reforms process.