Improving electoral operational planning in Western African Region

It was an opportunity to listen to the Nigerian and Sierra Leone experiences on biometric voter registration and learn about the challenges they encountered as wellas what worked and what didn’t work for them. These exchanges will go along way to improve registration operations in the region.

With these words Peninah Immaculate Kassait, director of voter registration and electoral operations at the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) of Kenya, acknowledged a productive session on ICTsin voter registration at a June 2011 workshop in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital. Kassait also shared with the assembly the voter registration process the IIEC undertook in 2010.

The workshop on electoral operational planning was organized by GPECS with the support of the UNDP Country Office in Sierra Leoneand in association with members of the EC-UNDP Joint Task Force on Electoral Assistance and the Procurement Support Office (PSO).

The workshop brought together representatives fromUNDP, EMBs and relevant stakeholders from across the continent that are andwill be working together in the management of electoral processes. Attendeesdiscussed their experiences and practices of planning, budgeting andprocurement for electoral cycles. They considered  lessons learned and good practices in thesedomains, and offered operational recommendations to improve the administration of electoral processes and projects supporting such processes.

As the president of Guinea’s Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), Lousény Camara, said, “These exchanges allowed people from different backgrounds and different regions of the continent tobetter understand what was done elsewhere and to highlight, by comparison, what practices should be generalized.”

In the context of the increased involvement of UNDPcountry offices in electoral assistance, the exchanges were a great opportunityfor staff from UNDP and EMBs to understand each other’s needs, practices, andprocedures, and thus improve their collaboration to the benefit of futureelectoral processes.

Fatoumata Kané from the UNDP Country Office in Malicame to the workshop with her national counterpart, Moriba Sinayoko, deputy director for elections in the Malian Ministry of Territorial Administration.They work together on a daily basis in preparing for the 2012 national elections. Fatoumata said the workshop allowed her to “better understand the challenges confronting the ministry in the organisation of elections.” Moriba, meanwhile, said that that he had previously viewed UNDP’s role in a narrow way, but that he now “understands that collaboration with the organisation can be deepened, especially in termsof budgeting and procurement methodology.”

Electoral budgeting and procurement were studied indepth because, as emphasized by Okechukwu Ndeche, the director of operations of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), “Budgeting and procurement are long and uncertain tasks that have a tremendous impact on the electoral process credibility and success”. Okechukwu therefore recommended that “sufficient time and resources [be] dedicated to these activities in order to streamline the whole electoral process.”

The workshop agenda as well as the participatory approach adopted were well appreciated by the participants, who called for thiskind of workshop to be held on a more frequent basis so that they can discuss new and specific challenges. In order to disseminate widely the lessons learned during the workshop, the attendees will share what they learned to their colleagues and the workshop recommendations will be published.

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