Saturday, 12 October 2013

Opening Speech by Comm Emmanuel Chinkwita-Phiri for QCM and COPs training

   ·              My fellow Commissioners,
·           The Regional Elections Officer (C), Mr Wellingtone Katantha
·              Team Leader for the facilitators
·              Electoral Commission Staff,
·              Distinguished Participants
·              Members of the media,
·              Ladies and Gentlemen
I feel greatly honoured today to make an address before the start of a crucial and important training in our electoral calendar like this one.
I should start by congratulating all of you for being offered an opportunity to work with the Commission as Quality Control Managers.  As the name of your post suggests, your role will directly contribute to the quality of the primary document for a credible election, which is the voters’ roll.
During the past elections, we had cases whereby registered voters with valid voter IDs could find their names missing on the voting day, their names bearing wrong pictures, their names having wrong sex, their names being found in wrong centres and even spelling errors. These challenges have dogged us in the past.  Let me state here that as a Commission we were not happy with their continued recurrence. Our analysis shows the problems originate at data capture. We would like, therefore, you QCMs to nip these issues in the bud, hence your recruitment and the provision of this training.

The Commission has trained other Quality Control Managers who are currently involved in registration work. However, the Commission decided to increase the numbers because of the demand to finish registration earlier before the rains start.  The other teams started registration in the South and are coming up. You will be deployed to Chitipa and you will be coming southwards.
There are 200 of you here after tomorrow’s session you will all go back to your homes.  Our staff will call you but we shall start with 150 of you and others will be invited later.  The call up will depend on your performance.  Those who will excel will be called first and so on and so forth.  Trainers will be assessing you in the course of the training.  Therefore, the need for you to take the training seriously. 

For the 2014 Tripartite Elections, the Commission decided that everyone should register; whether they registered before or not. In common person’s language, anyone who was born before 20th May, 1996 will have to register because they will have attained the age of 18 on the polling day.

     The fresh registration is offering an opportunity for the Commission to deal away with the problems, which I mentioned above and in addition to that; our voters’ roll was bloated with dead persons. At the moment, the nation does not have a systematic means of reporting deaths which could help to have dead persons automatically removed from the voters roll. We rely on goodwill of relatives to come during registration and report all persons who passed on. This approach too has not been effective because our cultural beliefs discourage people from mentioning the dead.
     As Quality Control Managers, you are coming in to ensure that the quality of the data we are capturing is perfect. You are the last persons to correct any mistake or omission during registration before the process goes on to a machine. With computers, you all know that it is garbage in, garbage out. If we feed it wrong information, we don’t expect it to correct the mistake. So, if we get it right at data capture we are on course to build a credible voters’ roll.
     May I also draw your attention to one area where we may face challenges if you don’t handle it carefully. We will register those who
     have not turned 18 yet but will turn 18 on the day of polling. These ones will be applying to register on the day they will turn 18, so their day of application for registration will be their birthday. If you put the day they come to the centre as their day of applying for registration, the computer will reject the name on the basis that they are underage. So please take special attention to the training on this area.
     I am also reliably informed that on the second day of your training camera operators will join you. During registration, each one of you will be paired with a camera operator from one phase to the other. It is your responsibility to ensure that both of you know the camera operation procedure and have adequate knowledge regarding when one is of age to apply to register. I am saying this, ladies and gentlemen, as the first point of entry for registration is a camera operator who will verify the registrant’s eligibility before taking their photo.
     Having explained your crucial role, I should urge you to be vigilant and dedicated to your work. We do not build a credible register in one day but it is a collection of your articulate attention paid to each and every registration form administered by your team.
     Therefore, let me warn you against being complacent and getting used to your work. This is a common challenge when doing monotonous work, but take this as a special case. Take it that each form deserves careful attention. We have dismissed non performers during the earlier phases and will not hesitate to dismiss you at any point.

     Let me also warn you against abuse of registration materials. Some people have been caught taking and printing personal photos using registration materials. This we will not tolerate and if found you will be fired. You also have a responsibility of ensuring that materials are kept safe.

     As Quality Control Manager, you job requires fulltime attendance and absenteeism is not tolerated. Some QCMs and Camera operators have been fired for absconding work and negligence. You need be on your guard all the time you are doing your work, pay proper attention to detail and instruction. You will also need to be courteous to people coming to register. You will meet people of various social status and you need to treat all of them with respect. 

Before I resume my seat, let me inform you that registration centres open to the public at 8AM and close at 4PM. We are opening during these time because we know there is need for preparatory work in the morning before the centres open and also need for time for back office operations after the centres close. We had cases where some staff were closing registration centres and returning people before 4PM. These were sternly warned.  As a Commission would like to ensure that every eligible voter is registered so we encourage you to process the same day everyone who presents themselves for registration before the closing time. In the event that you are unable to process them the same day, the names of such persons should be recorded and processed with priority the following day.

As a Commission, we have also noticed that people have a tendency to come to the centres on the last day, a move that creates congestion. So I advise you that on the last day, if there are people whom you are unable to process them the same day, you should record their names and process them the following day. This is a demand driven-extension to registration days. But I should emphasise that this only applies to person who have presented themselves for registration before 4PM on the 14th day of registration.
In closing I should thank everyone who has come here. May God bless you and bless our nation, remember, in everything we do, we are putting the voters first and the focus and energies for should be towards a credible voters’ roll.
     I have the honour and privilege to declare this training opened.

     Thank you.

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