Monday, October 25, 2021

IEC showpiece on EVMs descends into circus

The integrity of Electronic Voting Machines got a further hit when a supposed showpiece organised by the Independent Electoral Commission descended into chaos.

Also on the line was the integrity of Gabriel Seeletso, a veteran senior public servant who has been the public face of attempts to sell machines to a doubting public.

A week ago the IEC invited the media and potential hackers for the show.

It was an act of desperation as on Thursday the IEC brought fake Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) for demonstrations.

Instead of allaying fears, this further fuelled persistent allegations that EVMs can be easily hacked.

The machine that was used for demonstrations is not the machine that will be used in the general elections in 2019 even if the courts give IEC a green light to use the machines.

This was revealed when the acting coordinator of the EVM Gabriel Seeletso failed to answer a question on the cost of a single machine.

Seeletso said he wouldn’t know the cost of a single machine as Botswana is yet to send specifications to BHARAT Electronics of the machines they require. According to Seeletso Botswana need about 7000 machines.

He says the machine that was used for demonstration was just a sample.

At first, IEC invited potential hackers and electronic experts to come and demonstrate if it was possible to hack the machines.

A day before the demonstrations, the Chairman and Managing Director of BHARAT electronics one M. Gowtama distanced his company from the scheduled hacking exercise organised by the IEC.

In their release BHARAT categorically stated that it has not sold any EVMs or VVPATs to Botswana.

“Botswana Electoral Commission has invited team from BHARAT to show only the functionality of EVMs and VVPATs designed to meet the specific requirements of Botswana Government. These EVMs and VVPATs are different from the ones which are used by Election Commission of India,” read the statement which further noted that no Hacking exercise involving EVM and BHARAT has been planned or scheduled by BHARAT.

“Therefore, Press Note issued by Botswana Electoral Commission is without our approval/ consent and facts stated therein are completely false and incorrect,” read the statements.

The IEC and Seeletso did not even know the names of the three representatives from BHARAT that had come to accompany him.

The three men even refused to share their names with the media.

They wanted to be referred as “Representatives from BHARAT.”

Asked to clarify why hackers were not given chance to hack the machines as stated earlier in their invitation, Seeletso said he assumed the three BHARAT representatives were bringing new machines from BHARAT only to learn they got samples.

The said samples were labelled “Electoral Commission of Namibia.”

The three representatives from BHARAT insisted that the machines cannot be hacked but refused when hackers requested to be allowed to hack the machine.

“These machines cannot be hacked and these machines have no disadvantages,” said one of BHARAT representative who refused to identify himself shortly after the presentations.

Taking a bullet on their behalf Seeletso told this publication that he deals directly with BHARAT not individuals within BHARAT.

So he does not care about their names.

“They are here presenting for you but they do not know your name,” said Seeletso.

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