EC must ensure accountability over tab scandal

Update:

It is widely believed that the election commission (EC) fails to carry out its responsibilities properly. It was the foremost duty of the people in charge of this constitutional institution to ensure people’s right to vote. The 30 December national election and the ongoing upazila elections prove that they have failed to discharge that duty. The EC is impassive about the criticism home and abroad in this regard.

Various quarters raised their eyebrows at EC’s decision to use Electronic Voting Machine (EVMs) in the national elections for the first time. Firstly, they objected to the high price of EVM machines. The machines were purchased from Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory at a price eight times higher than the ones made by Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology (BUET). Experts raised questions about this back then. The EC said it was experimental and will be used in only 6 out of 300 constituencies.

Unfortunately, they failed to hold a fair election in those six constituencies. The machines were out of order in many of the polling centres, resulting in delayed declaration of the results. The EC, without investigating the technical glitches of the EVMs and failing to hold the supplier firm responsible, went on to use tabs with EVMs in Gopalganj and Manikganj sadar upazila election on 24 March. The returning officer found that the results sent by the tabs were faulty. As a result, officials had to resort to conventional methods of counting and reject the results sent through the tabs. EC then took the decision not to use tabs in the last phase of upazila elections.

The million dollar question is why did the EC buy 42,200 tabs worth Tk 460 million to be used in the upazila elections? EC officials spent public money for purchasing the tabs. One of the commissioners commented that the EC should have trained the officials in the first place before using it. Why did they put the cart before the horse? Why did not they train the officials first?

According to many experts, tabs were not at all necessary for sending the results from EVMs. The server of EVM was enough to send the results anywhere in quickest possible time. If that is so, why were the tabs purchased with huge amounts of public money? There should be credible and fair investigation over the allegation of irregularities regarding purchasing and using EVM and tabs. The EC does not have the right to squander public funds.

A media report said that the EC could not purchase the required number of EVMs as the government failed to disburse the funds in time. But that now seems a blessing in disguise. If bringing voters to the polling centres is beyond the purview of the chief election commissioner, it is certainly his responsibility to investigate the allegations of irregularities over purchasing EVMs and tabs. The image of this constitutional institution cannot be tarnished due to the whims of certain individuals.

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