LAHORE - Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development (PILDAT) believes that a sum of Rs 01 billion was wasted during preparation of Computerised Electoral Rolls System (CERS) by the Election Commission of Pakistan, which awarded the contract to a company by keeping NADRA away from the bidding, a decision which led to many flaws in the electoral rolls. This has been revealed in a report prepared by PILDAT and shared with journalists belonging to print and electronic media during a briefing session held here on Monday at a local hotel. The report disclosed that at the time of making fresh electoral rolls the ECP had chosen not to ask the NADRA, which had prepared the Electoral Rolls for the Local Government Election 2000-2001 and General Election 2002, to join hands in the preparation of fresh rolls. The contract worth $9.5 million was awarded to Kalsoft, a joint venture of three Pakistani companies including the TCS. NADRA was excluded from the project and was asked not to bid. PILDAT is of the view it is both a matter of concern and amazement that the ECP chose not to exercise its constitutional authority to secure the necessary data from the NADRA or take other appropriate steps to ensure the verification of CNIC numbers in the fresh electoral rolls. A close coordination between the NADRA and the ECP was required for accurate and reliable electoral rolls. The report further reveals that it was decided by the ECP in 2005 to put in place a Computerised Electoral Rolls System (CERS) for regular updating of the Electoral Rolls electronically. For this purpose, the then Chief Election Commissioner constituted an Electoral Rolls Council comprising senior officers of the Election Commissions Secretariat with the mandate to initiate and supervise the whole process of computerisation of the Electoral Rolls from development of requisite software till entry of voters data into the system. Technical assistance was provided by the US-based International Foundation for Electoral System (lEES) under a contract with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and through a tripartite arrangement which included the ECP also as a party to the arrangement. The project was, to a substantial extent, funded by the USAID. The preparation of Electoral Rolls was to cost around Rs1 billion out of which a contract worth Rs560 million (around $ 9.5 million) was awarded to Kalsoft, but NADRA was kept out of bidding process. The report further said a good starting point for the preparation of Electoral Rolls, both from a technical and an economical point of view, could have been the NADRA database which could then be expanded to include all eligible voters, further verified and cross-checked to conform to the specific needs of Electoral Rolls. Reportedly, the ECP later asked NADRA to share its database for the preparation of the new Electoral Rolls but NADRA refused to do so on the basis of data security considerations. One of the members of Citizens Group on Electoral Reforms Process (CGEP) Nasira Javed Iqbal informed journalists during the briefing that electoral rolls prepared by Kalsoft did not register 27 million eligible voters mostly the females. She said every penny spent on the project should be accounted for. The reports say that Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) initiated the process of preparing fresh electoral rolls on April 15, 2006 and decided to opt for door-to-door enumeration of voters instead of using the NADRA database as a baseline. The enumeration commenced on July 14, 2006 and was to conclude on September 11, 2006 but the last date of collection of forms by enumerators was extended to September 30, 2006. Initially, Computerised National Identification Card (CNIC) was declared to be a prerequisite for registration as a voter but later the ECP announced that the old NlCs (which were declared to be without legal value by the Government of Pakistan) would also be acceptable for the purpose of registration as a voter. The NADRA claimed that the issuance of CNICs had picked up pace (around 900,000 CNICs per month) soon after the ECP declared CNICs to be a prerequisite for registration as a voter but the volume dropped down to around 500, 000 CNICs per month after the condition was withdrawn. The data entry of the voters data from the collected forms had been undertaken in the Data Centre of the contractors located in Lahore. The data entry operations were not open to public or to political parties. If the system was open to public observation it was likely to enhance public trust in the system. The then US Ambassador Ryan C Crocker and some other US Embassy staff, however, were given a conducted tour of the Data Centre where voters data was being processed . The report has noticed significant decline in number of voters since 2002. According to the ECP, there were 52,102,428 voters recorded in the Draft Electoral Rolls Database, 2007. Compared to this, there were 71,863,280 voters as per the electoral rolls used in 2002 general elections. Combined with the historical rate of growth of 2.7 per cent per annum, the number of registered voters in 2007 should have grown to around 82 million. Consequently, a gap of around 30 million or around 36 per cent voters was recorded in the new voters list. Some other discrepancies including wrong district and tehsil names, wrong electoral area names and placement of electoral areas in wrong tehsils etc were also noticed. The number of overall voters had apparently taken a hit of around 30 million. Women, already a somewhat disenfranchised section of the society, had taken a larger hit in these draft computerised Electoral Rolls compared to men. The number of women voters had dropped by 39 per cent overall in the voters list compared to male voters whose registered votes had witnessed a drop of around 18 per cent. This led to shrinking of the share of women voters in the total number of voters. The women voters, which constituted 40 per cent of the total voters in 2002, shrunk to 30 per cent of the total voters in 2007. Comparing the registration figures released by the ECP to the 2002 Electoral Rolls figures, PILDAT has expressed grave concern at the drastic reduction in female voters in the NWFP which had seen the number of registered female voters decreasing by 45 per cent from 3.92m in 2002 to 2.17m in 2007. In contrast to this significant reduction in women voters, the male voters in the province had registered a nominal reduction of less than 6 per cent despite an overall reduction of voters in the country by about 28 per cent. The number of women voters had registered a drastic decrease of 85 per cent in FATA, 41 per cent in Sindh, 37 per cent in Punjab, 36 per cent in Balochistan and 19 per cent in Islamabad Capital Territory. The women voters registered an overall decrease of a little over 39 per cent compared to just 17 per cent decrease in male voters, according to the said report. The ECPs reported public position on these crucial issues had been to blame the drop in the number of voters to the lack of NICs by a large number of otherwise qualified voters who could not be registered in the new rolls because of the requirement of holding a NIC for registration as a voter. It maintained that the 2002 Electoral Rolls, although contained over 72 million voters, a large number of those registered voters did not have NICs. Quoting experts, PILDAT believes that the NADRA could have done a much better job of preparing the CERS in much less amount of money and time. The NADRA and its capability to process and manage huge amount of data has won wide international acclaim and it is intriguing why its database collected and compiled over the past many years could not be used for preparing fresh electoral rolls.