Liberia: Did NEC Chair Lie?

NEC chair Davidetta Browne Lansanah. 

— As she keeps defending EKEMP’s alleged “responsiveness” to issue the software and the hardware for the biometric voter registration procurement process, stating that “PSI and partner HID Global did not submit audited financial statement.”

NEC Chair, Madam Davidetta Browne Lansanah, on Tuesday, October 25, held a press conference to announce what she described as ‘updates’ on the controversial biometric voter registration procurement process. According to her, one of the joint venture bidders, Professional Services Incorporated (PSI) and its international partner, HID Global, did not submit to NEC’s bid evaluation panel any audited financial statement and, as such, it was not possible to determine the capacity of the vendor(s) to pre-finance the project.

Lansanah told the press conference that Laxton, one of the bidders, submitted its audited financial statement and the amount registered was nearly US$4 million, while Mwetana’s joint audited financial statement is over US$4 million.

However, an unimpeachable source on the bid evaluation panel has disclosed to Daily Observer that the NEC chairperson did not tell the truth when she said that HID Global failed to submit its audited financial statement.

The details, which are in the possession of the Daily Observer, show that HID Global submitted three years’ worth of audited financial statements, covering 2019, 2020 and 2021, which put the company even far above any other company competing for the biometric voter registration contract award.

Lansanah said EKEMP, her preferred company, submitted its audited financial statement and it has met the criterion to pre-finance, even though it has its own challenges.

For the three years of audited financial reports provided by HID Global and prepared by global accounting firm Delliotte, the vendor (HID) is worth US$6.2 billion, compared to EKEMP which is said to be in the tune of a little over US$12 million.

HID Global is an American company and it is partnering with PSI, a Liberian company believed to have expertise in the procurement of election materials as well as technical support.

In furtherance of gathering more facts about HID Global and its partner PSI, the Daily Observer contacted UBA Bank’s manager, Mr. Carl Sumo to know the status of the PSI, the local vendor and as a response, Sumo said PSI is in good standing and has a functional account.

“We are serving everybody and it is on the basis of our records we have vouched as a bank that the bearer of the account is in good standing with us. In case there is a contract awarded to our client, we follow our own policies for credit facility before we can allow our client to benefit from our loan scheme,” Sumo told the Daily Observer via phone.

Although the NEC Chairperson did not have a conclusive opinion for the public about the biometric voter registration, Lansanah said her evaluation panel is still reviewing the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC)’s second rejection letter concerning EKEMP.

Performances of vendors

“EKEMP printed outside of the stipulated time but it filed a complaint that it was asked to use a projector, [which] caused the delay. The matter made its way to the Honorable Supreme Court. The Court asked the panel to accept the card printed by EKEMP and mention it in its report. The rocket tablet used has two fingerprint scanners,” she reported.

According to Lansanah, HID Global/PSI failed to print on the spot the permanent voter card (PVC) at both the first evaluation presentation as well as the re-demonstration process.

“PSI, HID Global was unable to print on the spot for the second time during the re-demonstration. PSI/HID Global indicated that the prospect of printing on the spot was not possible due to concerns with deduplication. The system designed by the vendor will require all the data to be collected and synchronized at a central location for effective deduplication before subsequent printing and issuance of cards,” she said.

She added: “The bidder demonstrated that the voters will be issued a receipt at the registration center and the cards will be printed and distributed at a later date.”

Contrary to her statement, however, a source on the evaluation panel told the Daily Observer that HID Global printed on the spot and the company was the only company that printed voter cards with the hologram feature, a major security feature NEC seeks as mentioned in its Standard Bid Document, which is also in the possession of this Newspaper.

“HID Global, during the presentation did not only print a temporary receipt before all the parties, they printed PVC cards that were machine readable with hologram security features, which were scanned and demonstrated but also provided expert advice to the panel; something no other company did,” the source said.

According to the source, the company, through its local partner, PSI, also said that based upon experience in the industry they advised the panel that any attempt to print cards in the field would be subject to high risk, including possible device failures.

The source further noted that “HID proved so far to be the only manufacturer of secure ID card printers and a firm with the biggest financial bank balance that bidded.”

“They informed us on the need to use a system that would require partly manual and partly digital so as to work in our rough environment,” the source explained.

The source concluded that HID Global/PSI informed NEC’s bid evaluation panel that due to Liberia’s numerous challenges, including lack of adequate and stable electricity supply, the laminated VR cards can be used to clean up the voter roll before issuing out the biometric voter cards, which no one would have the capacity to duplicate.

The hybrid system, the Daily Observer learned, allows for a temporary laminated voter card, followed by a biometric card bearing the hologram as well as the QR Code, among others.

The method suggested to the NEC procurement evaluation panel by HID Global, is being practiced in Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria, according to research, which helps with the deduplication process without any future threat to the system.

Senate Committee’s Leaked Report 

Meanwhile, the NEC Chairperson said she was disappointed that the Senate Committee allowed a recording of her statements when she appeared without any prior notice of the action.

“I am deeply concerned. It was not communicated to us that the Senate Committee was conducting an investigation. At no time did the Senate Committee request written information on its investigative tour,” she said. “The Senate Committee wrote a letter inviting me to a meeting. Two other senators, who are members of the Committee, were there. To my utmost surprise, the office assistant of Senator Henrique Tokpah was recording the session without informing me.”

The leaked report from the Senate Committee on Autonomous Commissions and Agencies cataloged its findings between NEC and PPCC, noting on record that the NEC Chairperson appears to be single handedly running the affairs of NEC, mainly by awarding contracts without the involvement of her fellow Commissioners on the Board.

The Senate Committee concluded its report by asking for NEC’s complete redo of the bidding process by putting up new bid advertisement or considering HID Global/PSI which, according to the NEC bid evaluation panel’s report, was the second most responsive of the five companies that is part of the ongoing controversial bidding process. 

Lansanah concluded by saying that she raised her concern with Sen. Tokpah on the issue of her being recorded.

“I raised the issue because I think if you are to record anyone, you must let me know. Unfortunately, that happened. I am surprised. We should have been given time to provide a justified report. What has happened there is in the newspaper,” she noted.