Liberia: Unity Party “Unimpressed” With NEC Over BVR, Others

Amos Tweh, Secretary General of UP

..... “For the most part, we are unimpressed with the National Elections Commission. The Commission is dragging us as a country into trouble if care is not taken,” Tweh said, adding that the Commission must live up to its responsibilities as the body responds to set the pace for good governance.

The former ruling Unity Party (UP) has disclosed that it is “unimpressed” with the National Elections Commission (NEC) over the handling of the 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections plans, including the Biometric Voter Registration.

Amos Tweh, Secretary General of UP, said NEC must live up to the expectations of electorates and all others, including partners who support its activities.

“For the most part, we are unimpressed with the National Elections Commission. The Commission is dragging us as a country into trouble if care is not taken,” Tweh said, adding that the Commission must live up to its responsibilities as the body responds to set the pace for good governance.

His reaction came following the end of NEC’s Inter-Party Consultative Committee (IPCC) meeting with several political parties, including the ruling Coalition for democratic Change (CDC).

“NEC has been delaying and dragging its feet on this whole process,” Tweh said. “So the first thing we thought to do was to invoke a provision within the IPCC memorandum of understanding, which is between the political parties and the National Elections Commission, which gives us the right to call for a meeting. So the Unity Party wrote an official communication to NEC to convene a meeting with us to discuss issues including the biometric voter registration process,” he indicated.

He said at the meeting, he, along with other representatives of opposition political parties, were discouraged to know that NEC has selected a company whose profile it does not know and that the company is dictating to the Commission on what should be done and how it should be done.

“I don’t have all of the details, but we have read reports that the company said it can bring in materials within a period of 147 days, such a very long time,” Tweh said.

He expressed concern further on how NEC, the same Commission that declared Laxton unqualified for lacking audited financial records for 2021, has come back to say the same company is now the most qualified company to do the biometric voter registration.

He said NEC needs to tell the public how Laxton, which did not qualify earlier, has now become the most qualified company to provide the biomimetic materials, software and technical support.

“NEC informed us at the IPCC meeting that even though PPCC has issued a ‘No Objection’, technicians at the Commission are in consultation with Laxton to arrive at a date on which the materials will be in the country,” Tweh explained, noting further that it is unfortunate that NEC is proceeding this way.

The Public Procurement and Concessions Commission (PPCC) is the national public procurement regulatory body.

“NEC said they could not tell us specifically about when biomimetic materials will be in the country because Laxton has not given them a full disclosure of the schedule for the delivery of the materials,” the UP chief scribe said.

A credible source on the technical team at NEC, who was in the meeting with Laxton but preferred anonymity in this report, told the Daily Observer that Laxton has said that it will bring the first consignment of materials on March 12, 2023 to train NEC temporary staff.

Although the Commission has issued a release notifying the public that its original time table for the elections processes no longer holds and that it will revert to the public with the updated calendar of activities, its original plan announced to the public was that the biometric voter registration should have begun on December 15, 2022 and ended on March 17, 2023.

UP’s SG said the delay or long delivery schedule may have a great implication on the biometric process, if NEC does not act as it ought to do.

“One of the Commissioners at NEC, who was in the meeting with us, said, ‘we heard that Laxton worked in Guinea and Sierra Leone, so we believe the can do it too for Liberia,’ but the other thing about this is that we need a formal or written briefing on the selection of the company and the delivery time for these biometric materials. It is our right to demand for this and we hope NEC will comply,” Tweh said.

He said the opposition political parties are united in calling on the NEC to do the right thing.

“About ten political parties, including the Rainbow Alliance, the Liberian People’s Party (LPP), United People’s Party (UPP), Movement for Progressive Change (MPC), and Liberia Restoration Party (LRP), were all in the inter-political parties meeting at the UP headquarters and we remain main committed to ensuring NEC does the right thing,” he said. He concluded that at this time, there should have been civic voter education ongoing for people to know what they will be exposed to during their participation in elections.

Meanwhile, NEC, through a press release signed by deputy communications director Prince Dunbar, said the biometric voter registration material procurement is on course and that elections will be held as provided for in the Constitution.

“The chairperson of NEC, Madam Davidetta Browne Lansanah, briefed political parties’ executives on the current status of the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR), and the procurement process leading to the no-objection from the Public Procurement and Concession Committee (PPCC), as well as the selection of Laxton Group, who emerged as the most responsive bidder for the BVR contract,” the release said. 

“However, the NEC Boss informed political parties’ executives that the Commission has not awarded any contract to any Vendor to procure BVR equipment and materials for the biometric voter registration exercise.”

Dunbar added: “She said, currently a 4-member delegation from Laxton Group, headed by Nick Perkins, President of Europe, Middle East and Africa and Senior Technicians of the NEC, are having a series of technical discussions leading to the awarding of a BVR contract for the registration exercise.”

Senate Committee to meet NEC today at its headquarters

The Senate Committee on Autonomous Agencies and Commission is expected to continue its consultative discussions today with the Board of Commissioners of NEC at the headquarters of the Commission.

It can be recalled that the NEC Board recently appeared before the full Plenary of the Senate to respond to issues concerning the delay in the BVR process. The internal wrangling among board members at NEC was high on the agenda.

It is hoped that the Senate Committee, headed by Bong County Senator Dr. Henrique Tokpah, will broker peace between the commissioners and their colleague, Chairperson Davidetta Browne Lansanah, who has been known to unilaterally preside over procurement matters, ignoring her fellow commissioners’ input.