“…I think we have the international community supporting us and therefore we have to work to get the confidence of the political parties or politicians to accept; to have confidence in whatever data is available from the NCRA,” NEC Chief Electoral Commissioner
NCRA, Freetown, Monday 10 August 2020 – The newly appointed Chief Electoral Commissioner of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Mohamed Kenewui Konneh has paid a courtesy call on the Director-General (DG) of the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA), Mohamed Mubashir Massaquoi and Senior Management at their Walpole Street Office in Freetown.
The Chief Electoral Commissioner (CEC) of NEC was accompanied by the Electoral Commissioner South, Edmond S. Alpha, Executive Assistant to the CEC Abu Turay and the Director of Media and External Relations, Albert Massaquoi.
Speaking on the purpose of the visit, NEC Commissioner South, Edmond Alpha said that the visit was to officially introduce the newly appointed Commissioner of NEC to the Director-General of NCRA in order to strengthen the relationship -between the two institutions and to see how the synergy, visions, principles and the legal reform aspect of both institutions could be further strengthened.
Commissioner Alpha informed that it was imperative to pay a courtesy call on the Director-General of NCRA since they were two sister institutions with a marriage that was still intact.
“In fact, for me there is a marriage, father and mother relationship between the two institutions. We thought it fit that our first point of call after the appointment of the CEC should be the NCRA,” he said.
He gave a background of the long-standing relationship that has existed between NCRA and NEC. Mr. Alpha said that NEC and NCRA started collaborating since 2009 in the following strategic areas: staff training, sensitization drives and also in the area of providing needed facilities for both institutions. He assured the DG and staff of the Commission’s commitment to ensure that the unwavering relationship, collaboration and marriage between the two institutions will continue.
“This marriage has been intact. This marriage is here to stay and this marriage will continue,” Mr. Alpha emphasized.
In his statement, Mr. Mohamed Kenewui Konneh, thanked the Director -General of NCRA for given him and members of his delegation a warm welcome.
Mr. Konneh said that one of the major functions of NEC has to do with voter registration which is also aligned to the responsibilities of the NCRA.
He added that there is a time frame for the conduct of elections in Sierra Leone as enshrined in the 1991 Constitution, which among other things has given him the urge to start working immediately he assumed office, as there are so many activities to embark on before conducting elections.
He affirmed that he was very much lucky to have met an already existing relationship between NEC and NCRA as it will make his work efficient and effective.
“Luckily for me before I assumed office, the relationship between NEC and NCRA has been existing. We think we have to start to work together so that we can enhance the structure that will make our work very easy and to also reduce the public perception about the relationship between civil registration and voter registration,” the CEC reaffirmed.
The Chief Electoral Commissioner emphasized the need for both institutions to actively engage in public awareness and public sensitization, especially to politicians, on the economic reality and benefit of civil registration.
“We have to work very hard so that we can reduce the misconception about this relationship and the use of the NCRA data,” he noted.
The NEC Commissioner informed the DG and staff of NCRA that the international community is in total agreement for the use of the NCRA data for electioneering and other purposes, noting that it will save cost and reduce the workload on the Commission.
“Also, fortunately for us the International community is in agreement with this relationship of using the data from here so that it will reduce the workload when it comes to voter registration. So, I think we have the international community supporting us and therefore we have to work to get the confidence of the political parties or politicians to accept; to have confidence in whatever data is available from the NCRA,” Mr. Konneh said.
Mr. Konneh reported to the DG that NEC is at an advanced stage of developing a strategic plan for the electoral cycle for 2020-2024 which will be readily made available to the NCRA for their input during their subsequent engagements as soon as it reaches its final stage.
The Commissioner disclosed that the Local Council Elections will definitely hold in 2022 if there is no alteration in the Local Council Act and encouraged both NEC and NCRA on the need to start considering the time schedule seriously.
“If there are no changes to the Local Council Elections Act, we are expected to conduct elections in 2022 and we will be thinking of planning for registration of voters for that purpose,” the Chief Electoral Commissioner said.
He emphasized that NEC and NCRA should start implementing what was in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that they had signed by setting up a formidable technical team whereby management of the two institutions will meet regularly and embark on joint activities that will make the public understand the link between NEC and NCRA.
“Taking over as the new captain of the ship, we will still continue with the marriage which is legally signed between NCRA and NEC. It is here to stay and then we only need to work on the terms of reference of this MoU so that we can give the public confidence in whatever data we present,” he stated.
Responding to the Chief Electoral Commissioner, the Director-General of NCRA, Mohamed Mubashir Massaquoi on behalf of the Board of Authority, Management and staff of NCRA welcomed the NEC Commissioner and team. He congratulated him on his appointment as Chief Electoral Commissioner and commended him for recognizing the NCRA as his first place to visit after his appointment.
The DG said that NCRA was very much pleased to continue to collaborate with NEC in joint activities and programmes that are in consonance with the furtherance of the bond between both institutions.
He confirmed that the relationship between NCRA and NEC started in 2009 under the then National Registration Secretariat (NRS) and that the two institutions had signed a number of memoranda since that time to guide their relationship, scope of interventions and mandates.
Mr. Massaquoi revealed that he had started engagement with the Commissioner of NEC when he was head of the Financial Intelligent Unit (FIU) in order to support data sharing. He assured that the engagement he had had with Mr. Konneh will yield dividend now that he was head of NEC.
He outlined the collaboration between NEC and NCRA and disclosed that NCRA and NEC has collaborated technically, operationally and shared expertise as well as resources.
The Director-General of NCRA cited the former head of NEC Information Community Technology (ICT), Ahmed Kamara, the present acting Chief Technology Officer, Henry Swarray and the current Director of Operations and Services, Abu Bakarr Javombo as former members of staff of NEC who are now either on secondment or permanent staff at NCRA to support the activities of the Authority.
He paid tribute to the NEC Commissioner South, Edmond Alpha, Philip Kargbo and Momoh Kanneh who supported NCRA to develop its Operational Plan to undertake the postponed Confirmation of Registrants’ Personal Details and the Registration of the unregistered population.
“This was intended to have the data updated and ready for ID production, data sharing with other public institutions not merely NEC, though a potential beneficiary,” the DG emphasized.
The Director-General also informed the new CEC that due to limited office accommodation, NCRA is currently using NEC facility at Wellington to digitize all past records on vital events, to enhance record search, halt manipulation of personal data and contain identity fraud.
He also said the Authority is using the NEC facility to store its equipment, such as laptops, and generators meant for the confirmation exercise of registrants’ details.
Mr. Massaquoi also cited the support from Irish Aid and UNDP through which NCRA and NEC conducted a successful joint public education in December 2019 on the benefits and link between civil registration and voter registration.
The Director-General assured the Commissioner of NEC of the commitment of NCRA to honour its mandate by sharing its data with NEC, as well as other institutions as and when necessary, noting that it was to reaffirm what the UN Secretary General said during their meeting in South Africa that it was necessary for African countries to use CRVS data for election purposes.
“African governments are encouraged to use their civil registration data to update their voter register for the conduct of public elections. We have the responsibility to make sure that the relevant data is ready whenever you want it. That is why we want to update data,” Mr. Massaquoi said.
The Director-General of NCRA said that continuous public engagement to build public confidence was necessary for the public to know that CRVS is a tool for development.
Mr. Massaquoi thanked NEC for the approval to donate 2,000 mobile phones to the NCRA in support of births and deaths registration and assured the Commissioner of a continued smooth relationship of the marriage that has been existing between the two institutions.
“Our marriage is intact; no divorce,” the DG assured the CEC.
He informed the CEC and his team of the Authority’s commemoration of the Third Africa Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) Day on 10 August 2020.
Present also at the meeting were the Deputy Director-General, John Godswill Lavalie, Directors of Human Resource, Shiaka Kawa, Operations, Abu Bakarr Javombo, ICT, Henry Swarray, Information, Education and Communication, Thomas P. Sowa and other senior staff members of NCRA.
© IEC DIRECTORATE, NCRA.