IEC receives fifth award in 12 months

The Electoral Commission (IEC) has won a fifth award for its election results slip scanning project since November 2010. The IEC entry received first prize from the African Association for Public Administration and Management (AAPAM) in the category for Innovative Management. The prize was awarded in Lilongwe, Malawi on 16 November 2011.

The AAPAM Innovative Management Awards recognise organisational achievement in Public Administration and Management in Africa to encourage managerial excellence. Every year organisations in the public sector in Africa are invited to submit their innovations to the AAPAM Secretariat. The submissions received are evaluated by an independent jury of five Judges which shortlists the best five entries. Submitting organisations are then interviewed by the Jury.

The IEC introduced the process of scanning Results Slips during the 2009 National and Provincial Elections (NPE) and the functionality was also subsequently implemented for use in the 2011 Municipal Elections. For the municipal elections results slips were printed with bar-codes and scanned at municipal results capturing sites in order to provide a visual image paired to an electronically captured result. The use of bar-codes enabled the automated linking of the scanned image with the corresponding electronic record of the captured results.

The results slip scanning procedure has, in the past 12 months, won one international, one continental and two national awards:
• First prize from the Centre for Public Service Innovation (CPSI) in the category, “Innovative use of Information Technology for effective service delivery”, in November 2010 (National);
• First runner-up from the CPSI in the category “Public Sector Innovator of the Year 2010”, also in November 2010 (National);
• First runner-up from the All Africa Public Service Innovation Awards (AAPSIA) in the category “Innovative Service Delivery Improvements”, in May 2011 (Continental) – awarded in Nairobi;
• First prize from the United Nations Public Service Awards (UNPSA) in the category, “Preventing and Combating Corruption in the Public Service”, in June 2011 (International) – awarded in Dar Es Salaam.

“We are delighted to have received a fifth award for this project since transparency in the electoral process is high on our list of priorities for free and fair elections,” said new IEC Chairperson, Adv. Pansy Tlakula.

For more information on the AAPAM awards, please visit www.aapam.org 

Below is an article which provides more details on the use of scanner technology by the IEC – its contents may be freely used.

ISSUED BY THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION

Centurion
22 November 2011

For with media queries: Please contact Lydia Young on 082 650 8652
For media interviews: Please send an email to spokesperson@elections.org.za


Results Slip Scanning – Electoral Commission of South Africa

The Electoral Commission of South Africa, or IEC as it is known, probably conjures up images of getting up early to vote, cues at voting stations and then the lively television images which follow over the next days while the results are being tallied. The Commission would in all likelihood not feature as a technological giant in the minds of most and yet it is due, in large part, to the successful implementation of cutting edge technology and innovative processes since its inception in 1997 that the electoral process has flourished.

In 2009, the Commission introduced the scanning of results slips to further enhance transparency of the election process. The successful implementation of the project led to a number of local and international accolades. In November 2010, the project was announced winner in the CPSI’s category for “Innovative use of Information Communication Technology for effective service delivery” and first runner up in the “Public Sector Innovator of 2010” category. The project was also first runner up in the All Africa Innovation Awards (AAPSIA) in May 2011. In June 2011, the Commission won the United Nations’ category for “Preventing and Combating Corruption in The Public Service” in Tanzania. Most recently, in November 2011, the project won the African Association for Public Administration and Management’s (AAPAM) award for “Innovative Management” in Malawi.

The question begs why a project using scanning technology, which has been around for some time, would win a number of innovation awards, including one in a category dealing with the prevention and combating of corruption.

Key in addressing the question is the fact that the vision and mission of the Commission is to conduct free and fair elections, and it provides the context against which the results slip scanning project must be viewed. One of the key elements for the Commission to achieve free and fair elections has been continued endeavours to create and maintain transparency of its processes. This starts with a mechanism called Party Liaison Committees (PLCs). These committees meet at national, provincial and municipal level, and political parties are engaged in key aspects of the electoral process ranging from the suitability of voting stations, the candidate nomination process through to the appointment of the people working in those stations on Election Day.

For voting day and the subsequent counting and result processes there are a number of features which not only act as safeguards against errors creeping in but they also enhance the credibility of election results with their transparency. Party agents are present at the voting stations when ballot boxes are sealed, whilst voting takes place, when ballot boxes are opened, materials are reconciled and counting is done. Once the counting is finalised, the tally of votes is copied onto a results slip at which point the party agents sign off on the count as recorded on the results slip. A copy of the results slip is posted at the voting station and the original taken to the municipal office for capturing in the electronic result system and for them to be scanned as images.

At the municipal office of the IEC the results are captured, using double-blind capturing and after a number of cross checks, the captured result is verified against the original for correctness by an external auditor. The original results slip is then scanned and the resulting image transferred to the central database. This leads to the results slip image being available alongside the captured result on the results system for viewing and verification. In other words, the signed off results slip can be tracked from the hard copy on the door of the voting station to the scanned copy in the results system. This leads to there being very little room for errors to creep in.

During the results processing period following Election Day, the media, political parties and Commission staff members relocate to the national and nine provincial Results Operations Centres (ROC) in the country, where they all have access to the Commission’s Results System to view the captured results and concurrent scanned results slip images as they become available.

The answer clearly then is not why but rather how scanning technology has been used to support the vision and mission of the Commission. In a very real sense the project enhances the transparency of the Commission’s results process and prevents error by providing the all-important link between the physical counting process and the subsequent electronic result.

The IEC has used appropriate information technology since its establishment to advance the electoral process and this has been widely acknowledged by the industry and electoral experts. In 1999, the Commission became the first-ever recipient of a platinum award from the National Productivity Institute (NPI) for their vision and innovative use of technology. In 2000, the Commission received global honour in the form of the Computer World Smithsonian award for the application of information technology to the benefit of society. Several other awards followed, including the Institute of People Management award in recognition of the use of people and technology in elections and The South African Logistics Society awards. In 2004, the Commission won the Centre for Public Sector Innovation’s (CPSI) category for the “Innovative use of Information Communication Technology for effective service delivery” for the successful delivery of the 2004 National and Provincial Elections. In addition the Commission, in partnership with Digital Mall, won the CPSI category for the “Innovative Partnerships in the use of Information Technology for effective service delivery” for the implementation of its Public Call Centre. The latest awards it received are a continuation of this proud tradition.

Melanie du Plessis
Manager: Business Systems