Wednesday May 29, 2024

ECP system to get online results hits snags

By Mehtab Haider
July 27, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) placed Result Management System (RMS) for obtaining online computed results from Returning Officers on form 47 on the basis of each constituency but this system failed to perform on the Election Day, raising many questions on the credibility of the whole electoral process.

This online system was procured with Rs850 million from funding of the donors. The delay in announcement of provisional results raised many eyebrows which will cause unprecedented dent to the credibility of the whole process.

The political parties are now alleging that their polling agents were not given form 45 and the results were delayed to allegedly maneuver and change the results. However, the ECP says that the RMS and RTS (Result Transmission System) faced technical problems after which the results announcement got delayed.

Now the blame game has started as no one was accepting responsibility but it must be investigated to fix the responsibility that who advised and approved to ECP for procurement of such a system which failed to deliver the desired results. The ECP itself lacked capacity to develop its IT system and then run it effectively, said the sources.

There is need to understand basic difference between Result Management System (RMS) and Result Transmission System (RTS). The Nadra has helped the ECP to develop RTS only under which the polling station results on form 45 were supposed to be submitted to the ECP and ROs through online whatsapp.

Then the ROs were assigned to send complete result through RMS on form 47 to the ECP but this RMS failed to deliver online information on the elections day.

“It was failure on the part of the ECP as they did not check the quality of the RMS before this big day in the election history of Pakistan and why this system got choked exactly at time of announcing the results,” said one top official dealing with information technology related issues in government while talking to The News here on Thursday. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) provided funding for RMS and according to them one area of UNDP’s work is in democratic governance, where they work to provide technical assistance to support the institutional development of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the Senate, and the National and provincial assemblies.

The core focus of UNDP’s Strengthening Electoral and Legislative Processes (SELP) project activities was working jointly with and developing the professional skills and key functions of our government partners, promote greater public engagement and trust in processes, while supporting a more democratic culture. UNDP’s work with the ECP was based on the concept of supporting the electoral cycle, which addresses both one-off and resource-intensive election support, and capacity development based on a longer-term development agenda within the broader context of democratic governance.

UNDP IT related assistance to ECP mainly focuses on support to the IT Department of the ECP in overall development and implementation of a Results Management System (RMS), which includes GIS/Geo mapping of polling stations, a RMS, including software, which standardises the processing and relaying of election results, and support to a Results Transmission System to speed results transmission from the polling station to central results consolidation centers. Against this background, the project is seeking services of an international IT expert to provide technical assistance to the ECP.

Despite all such claims, the RMS miserably failed to deliver. However, the sources said that the ECP developed this system with assistance of UNDP funding contributed by donor countries.

When contacted Nadra spokesman for seeking comments here on Thursday, he said that they had nothing to do with Result Management System (RMS) so they could not reply regarding reasons for failure of its system. “We only assisted RTS which had worked without any problem,” he added.

This scribe also contacted Punjab Information Technology Board Chairman Dr Umar Saif and inquired him regarding any contribution of PITB in development of RMS, he strongly denied it and said that they had absolutely nothing to do with this RMS. He said that the ECP had sought technical feedback from all provinces and “we also gave feedback to offer our assistance but they never returned to us and we never heard back from them”. In elections 2013, the use of magnetic ink had caused problems for conducting verification exercise but in 2018 the whole RMS failed so it may cause potential threat to surface more controversies on political horizon of the country.

This scribe contacted ECP spokesman on Thursday who picked his phone and replied that he was in a meeting at Foreign Office and promised to get back after the meeting. Till filing of this report, he never returned with replies despite calling him and sending him question.