Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Response by Zetes to allegations of fraud

In response to an earlier blog posting on possible fraud in the voter register, the company contracted for the issuing of registration cards has written a rebuttal. I will post some comments on this letter later. A French version of this letter can also be found here.

In response to the blog “Document may suggest fraud in voter register” by Jason Stearns
We would like to address here to some of the preoccupation addressed in this blog which was subsequently mentioned in the local press in Kinshasa (mostly in “Le Potentiel” 5343 and “Le Phare” 4176 on the 30 of September), for our company’s name, Zetes, has been referred to in reference to the some of the work performed by our AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System) on the electoral enrollment data.
First of all, the title of the blog, even if in the conditional (“may suggest fraud”), has been transformed in the press in Kinshasa where fraud is now supposedly a fact, this without enquiry nor respect for the work being done.
As a partner of the CENI, Zetes participates in a joint effort with the objective of providing the best information possible to the CENI so that all in DRC can participate in the coming election.
In this perspective, we, as well as other partners, provide information so that the CENI can analyze, compile, compare and clean data gathered on the field as to obtain the most reliable collection of records with a minimized margin of error, errors that are inevitably encountered in such complex operations. There is no contradictory report to the official report of the CENI, sole depositary of the official and final information.
We take this opportunity to remind everyone that this kind of large-scale and complex operation always brings its share of problems we are here to help solving. We put our reputation at stake as our credibility and transparency in such operations we undertake and do not wish to see this work being used for political purposes by feeding rumors that do not have reason to exist at this stage. Any given number can be made to speak different kinds of truth. We strongly regret having been exploited and cited in the local press without having had the opportunity to comment but we hope this message can bring some reassurance to readers and will prevent the incorrect use of preliminary and outdated information in the future.
Having a long experience on the subject in hand, here is a statement, as bold as it may seem, that all involved in electoral processes should very well be aware of: fraud is impossible to organize at the level of centralization systems / databases.
Here are different reasons why:
  • It is impossible the create/delete persons in a database without anyone being aware of it, and there are many actors of different origin involved, when following centralization processes that lasts months.
  • All transactions in the databases from the field and in the central system are logged and linked to the operator who performed the actions so we are capable of tracing everything that has been done from beginning to end.
  • In terms of logistics, it is impossible to organize a fraud from an electronic file in proportion that cannot be detected or are of nature to have a significant impact. Try creating 100,000 fake voter within a database of more than 30 million by duplication. You would then need more than 2,000 buses (45 seater) or more than 400 planes (230-seater) to move them to other polling stations or manage to instruct 100,000 people without anybody else noticing. Having done all that, you would not even impact 0.3% of the electoral population. 
  • We always find in the end the same amount of “real doubles or duplicates” here and in many different countries; call it law of numbers. A large number of real duplicates for example is 0.5%  based on the total electoral population of which in 90% of the cases are people getting another card because their name was misspelled or didn’t like their picture or just wanted to have two card in case they loose one.
  • The nature of a duplicate is complex. The proven frauds (that can only be determined after human verification) are a small subset of the real duplicates, themselves a subset of the raw duplicates. Even in the eventuality that all of these where fraud attempts we are talking about way less than half a percent of the number of persons concerned (a double being a pair of at least 2 persons).
Computerized solution have the advantage of bringing credibility at this stage of the process by being able to cut down the error margin to bellow the percent which is seldom the case even in “mature” democracies but remains necessary in the absence of a computerized national registry to prevent fraud.
Errors on electoral lists in G20 countries are often greater than that even with electronic voting. With the experience of many projects, people should now be better aware, where fraud is possible or not, and it is not at the level of centralization systems that they can occur simply because it doesn’t make any sense.
As a result, we have transmitted information several time in the course of the process to the CENI and have continued working in order for the CENI to be able corroborate this with other information available from other sources and partners. The very presence of many players guarantees a degree of transparency through the exchange and ongoing consultation, which reveals that no alteration is possible. These information help improve the overall viability and confirmed that even though there were technical glitches, as you mention in you blog, we have early on stated that there where  no major problems to foresee as we have sufficient means to address them.
The numbers indicated in the blog are of different nature. Raw data is compared here with cleaned data, already deprived of technical errors. The comparison is therefore not possible.
In the hope that this, if not addressing the use of incomplete statistics will be reassurance enough to not concede to panic and invite those preoccupied to ask questions before relaying concerns expressed in this blog as facts.
We invite all who have used the information in this blog to read it again carefully, it expresses concerns that are not facts and it is irresponsible to use sparse elements in the press without further inquiry to obtain tangible information that would have inevitably lifted any doubts.
Kinshasa, October 3, 2011
Fabien MARIE
Program Manager
Zetes PASS


Anonymous said...

Just wanted to highlight for folks this press release.

Greensoft Technologies, a firm in California, has a new system to help companies with Sec 1502 of Dodd Frank.

At the moment, most companies are working with Enrst and Young- which has considerable capacity given they assisted with the Kimberly Process. But, ofcourse, that's a hefty consulting fee for tracking and tagging.

Thanks for this Zetes update.


Anand said...

It would be interesting to see the Zetes document that Jason Stearns references in his original post. To the casual observer, that might help to clear things up a bit. It is totally understandable if Zetes feels unfairly targeted or portrayed in local Congolese press, especially if conjecture has been transformed into fact. However, the original post could hardly be called irresponsible as it doesn't make any hard and fast claims, but rather reports possible fraud. It doesn't even directly imply that Zetes is negligent. In this response, the total sum of the many technical reasons that are given for why fraud is not possible in centralization systems seems to be, "it couldn't happen because it just couldn't happen." It seems possible that any type of corruption at any level could derail even the best intentioned data gathering and processing mechanisms. Perhaps an audit from another party would be a wise. Not to "keep an eye on Zetes" who are indeed performing an important function, but so the elections can indeed be viewed as a fair and transparent by all.

Anonymous said...

Entirely agree with Anand.

If this is what is considered a rebuttal by a private company than we are really in for a very long and potentially painful ride to election day.

This reminds me of the Enron scandal. Every time the company's bankers, accountants, and attorneys viewed the firms books and deals, they never found a thing. But as Enron's massive theft began to grate on its operations, it only then became clear just how fraudulent their operations were because they were so many of these deals were off the books.

Zetes is using a similar argument that Enron's bankers and accountants used which essentially amounts to "trust us, we know what we are doing because this is all we do".

That isn't good enough.

There needs to be an outside audit of the rolls to ensure their accuracy. A good "second opinion" is always useful and is particularly so given this very fragile state.

I doubt this well happen given the DRC likely has no money to pay for such an audit so, as stated in other comments on this blog, CENI needs to clearly explain what its procedures as it relates to its anti-fraud efforts- or in other-wards simply become much more transparent..

I entirely understand that the idea of independent, non-partisan, transparent, and fully accountable institutions of the state are very new for the Congolese. Well, here's a chance at learning how those work which is critical if this nation and its democracy are to thrive. As it stands, Congolese democracy is a frame. The DRC has elections and that's more or less it. It is beyond time for some "walls", and "nails", and a "foundation" to secure this house and CENI (and the Media Council), like it or not, is a major component that will get the DRC that much closer to a democracy ruled by law and institutions- as opposed to mortal men with guns.

- Mel

Anonymous said...

I was just wondering assuming the so called audit of the electoral voter register meant to be carried out by the opposition parties in-conjunction with CENI and other concerned parties does indeed bear fruit and happens to allay fears of fake voters within the database.

Secondly CENI has indicated that vote counting will be done at the polling stations, then maybe many of us are jumping the gun here by accusing or insinuating CENI together with the government has all manner of schemes to rig the up coming elections.

Thats just my 2 cents....

Post a Comment