Liberia: PPCC Compels NEC To Comply

 PPCC Executive Director, Atty. Jargbe Roseline Nagbe Kowo, left, and NEC Chairperson Davidetta Browne Lansanah


— As the Commission calls on NEC to redo bill evaluation.

December 15, 2022, to March 17, 2023, is expected to be used by the National Elections Commission (NEC) as a period to conduct the registration of all eligible voters but this schedule is likely to be challenged by the ongoing issues concerning the proposed introduction of biometric system, with the latest concern being the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) calling on NEC to return to status quo ante and redo the bill evaluation for the procurement of the new system.

In its September 20 response to NEC’s request for reconsideration so as to allow EKEMP and partners to proceed with the contract, PPCC said there is no other way but for NEC to adhere to its (PPCC) recommendations in order to ensure the process meets the required criteria as set forth in the bid document prepared by the Commission (NEC). 

“The Commission, upon overall review and scrutiny of the NEC’s justifications for reconsideration, states that the NEC’s justifications tendered cannot suffice, given that they do not address the anomalies PPCC indicated, as per the September 9, 2022 communication that established the need to re-evaluate; also considering re-demonstration of the performance and functionalities of the biometric system,” PPCC executive director, Jargbe Rosline Nagbe-Kowo, wrote to Davidetta Brown Lansanah, chairperson of NEC.

The PPCC executive director added that “NEC should note keenly that PPCC’s role, under its prior review obligations and mandates as prescribed by law, is to authenticate [that] the bidding processes conducted are in line with applicable procedures, fairly and transparently, and that bidders are treated equitably in terms of review and scrutiny of offers.”

She said that the procuring entity such as NEC cannot adjudge approval of its own evaluation process — a function that lies in the purview of the PPCC as provided for by the PPCC Act. The Act guarantees the PPCC the right to review all public procurement processes, including entities from where the procurement process is submitted, for review and “No-Objection”. Once found to be non-compliant and materially deviant, a “No-Objection” cannot be issued or approved.

“Anomalies and flaws in the NEC’s evaluation, as stated by the PPCC, are material deviations that cannot be ignored,” Kowo told Lansanah.

She further pointed out in her September 20 letter that PPCC’s decision about NEC returning to the reevaluation process is unchanged and remains final.

“The PPCC, thus maintains its review decision, as outlined in [its] September 9, 2022 letter, that the NEC conducts a re-evaluation which must consider a video recorded re-demonstration by the bidders who did the physical demonstrations as per NEC’s submissions for subsequent reference by the evaluation panel during its overall re-evaluation process and for future reference on a bidder’s obligations in case of breach in the functionalities of the Biometric system during the conduct of the voter’s registration,” she noted further.

Kowo emphasized in her September 20’s response to NEC that the Commission (NEC) should institute all other advisories as contained in the Commission (PPCC)’s September 9 communication.

She concluded by stating that PPCC’s primary focus is that all procurement processes be done in line with the PPCC Act of 2010, which talks about transparency and accountability for public confidence.

Is PPCC pushing NEC too hard? remains a question of value as elections are time-bound?

For PPCC, NEC must do the right thing, regardless of the time involved but, NEC, in its responses to PPCC, has said that it has done nothing wrong and commits to the remaining firm in following the provisions of the law as it discharges duties and responsibilities accorded it constitutionally.

On Monday, September 19, the Daily Observer reported a story bearing the headline “PPCC Objects to NEC Biometric Vendor Contract.” In that story, the Public Procurement office contended that NEC’s selected vendor, EKEMP, along with its partners, did not meet the needed requirements, such as the capacity to pre-finance as well as other concerns related to the security of the voter cards to be produced by the use of the biometric system.

The biometric voter registration materials contract in question is worth nearly US$12 million. Six companies — Waymark and Mwetana, HID Global and PSI, Elections Services, Network Solutions, Laxton, and Ekemp applied and participated in the evaluation process conducted by the evaluation panel but EKEMP was considered the most responsive, something that brought about concerns from sources following the procedure.

As done with previous letters, the PPCC boss copied Cllr. Frank Musa Dean, Justice Minister; Samuel D. Tweah, Jr., Finance Minister; Albert T. Chie, Senate Pro-Tempore and Senator Henrique Tokpa, Senate chairman on autonomous commissions and agencies.

NEC, however, said PPCC has failed to respond to concerns it (PPCC) has raised that should be addressed. NEC thinks this might create hurdles in the future if not responded to now.

In its September 13 letter to PPCC, NEC sought clarity on both the re-evaluation and re-demonstration, more so that not knowing what exactly is required might cause a delay in the voter registration process.

While the NEC seeks answers as to how PPCC wants it to proceed, the NEC has told the Daily Observer that it has accepted to conduct both the re-evaluation and re-demonstration.

Regarding PPCC’s September 9 statement on the expertise and lack of pre-finance capacity of the joint venture of Ekemp, INITS, and Palm, NEC has asked that if the answer is yes, whether or not EKEMP does still qualify as a bidder again participate, NEC should state in its response.

NEC did not say, however, as to when it would begin the re-evaluation and re-demonstration processes, but assured that it will ensure that the job is done soon.

When contacted, PPCC boss, Kowo said all the companies, including EKEMP that participated earlier, are all qualified to take part in the re-evaluation and re-demonstration processes.