Trying as hard as ever to shake off suggestions of conflict of interest in the National Elections Commission (NEC) and Tuma Enterprises business deal, NEC Chairperson Davidetta Browne Lansanah has, in the opinion of the Daily Observer, failed to dismiss suggestions and accusations of conflict of interest.
The Daily Observer has since discovered that Madame Browne Lansanah is not only the paternal sister of Tuma’s Vice President David T. Browne, but is also the maternal sister of Tuma’s CEO, Arnold Badio.
Frankly speaking, elaborate explanations provided by NEC Executive Director, Anthony Sengbe, on the issue centered on the technical capacity of the equipment rented by NEC at a whopping cost of US$182,320, was replete with technical jargon and, for the most part, confusing.
Yet, still, such elaborate technical explanations failed to address concerns about impropriety, given the fact that two brothers of Madame Browne Lansanah, Arnold Badio and David T. Browne, are senior executives of Tuma Enterprises.
The technical explanations by the NEC’s Executive Director followed questions put to the NEC chairperson by the Daily Observer on her relationship to Tuma’s Vice President for operations, David T. Browne.
Rather than addressing herself to the question, she promptly referred the Daily Observer to Mr. Sengbe, who veered off into technical details about the capacity of the equipment hired at a cost of US$182,320.
Insider NEC sources have told the Daily Observer that Madame Browne Lansanah is a “control freak”, meaning that she is virtually micromanaging the institution. They maintain that such practice is inimical to the interest of the institution because it lacks transparency and accountability.
They also maintained that given the crucial role of NEC as an integrity institution, such compromising practices could serve to harm the image of the NEC and eventually undermine public trust and confidence in that institution.
A leading civil society activist (name withheld), commenting on developments at the NEC, told the Daily Observer that corruption at the NEC assumed major proportions, especially during the tenure of former chairman Jerome Korkoya.
Further, according to him, under the Korkoya leadership, NEC virtually lost its independence because he kowtowed to executive diktat under President Sirleaf, accommodating her whims, seeking at every turn to ingratiate himself into her good wishes.
It was under Korkoya’s watch, the civil society activist declared, that the Voters Registry (VR) became corrupted. An official of the Sirleaf administration, serving in the office of the President, was caught pants down with voting materials and equipment illegally producing Voters registration cards in the official’s Johnsonville home.
The official in question was never sanctioned by President Sirleaf, which conveyed a distinct impression that she endorsed his action. Following the announcement of the 2017 elections results, opposition leader Charles Brumskine took the matter to the Supreme Court, charging fraud.
According to Brumskine the Supreme Court, even as beholden as it was to President Sirleaf, acknowledged charges of fraud but disappointingly ruled that such was not of a magnitude significant enough to affect the outcomes of the elections.
Insider sources at NEC have admitted that the observations of the civil society activist are indeed true. But according to them, all that is now “water under the bridge”.
This is in view of the fact that President Weah’s six-year term of office is just about over; so political parties and civil society organizations as well should be looking ahead to the overhaul or revamping of the electoral body well before elections in 2023.
The composition of the electoral body was done with very little or no input from political parties, which are the principal stakeholders in the electoral process.
Normally, the President of Liberia should hold consultative talks with political parties for their input into the selection process of members of that body. But this has not been the case with President Weah.
Some NEC commissioners, including the current chairperson, are said to have close links to the ruling CDC, while yet another has been previously linked to electoral fraud.
What this suggests is the need for an overhaul or reconstitution of the electoral body to make it free of unwholesome presidential influence.
As regards the NEC chairperson, for reasons of conflict of interest, as demonstrated in this recent award of US$182,320 to Tuma Enterprises, she should be shown the door as a first step towards the reconstitution of the electoral body.
But again, this is a matter that falls squarely within the purview of political parties and, if they fail to take up the matter, then they should expect no surprises in 2023 when polling results are announced.
President Weah has already declared with confidence that he is going to soundly trounce the opposition in 2023 and all they will do is to cry foul, which will not help them.
At least this is the view of the President and political parties should consider it as a wake-up call to get their act right.
The Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), once touted as “the last hope of the Liberian people”, have seemingly lost their footing and are now in grave danger of falling apart at the seams.
As this newspaper, the Daily Observer, has consistently pointed out, elections are a crucial determinant of peace and stability in Liberia.
Therefore, no stone should be left unturned to ensure the creation of a level playing field to enhance the holding of free, transparent and unfettered elections in Liberia.
And lest it be forgotten, time is running out fast. The sooner such important matters as the creation of a non-compromised Voters Registry, the demarcation and delimitation of constituencies and the re-composition and overhaul of NEC should be treated with the greatest urgency, the better.
Final word, NEC chairperson Davidetta Brown Lansanah must go, for she has lost the confidence of the Liberian people and compromised the integrity of the National Elections Commission.