— Insists that PPCC finally granted “no-objection” to use an unqualified company to procure pre-packed elections materials
Few weeks ago the National Election Commission (NEC) admitted that it violated Liberia’s procurement law when it awarded a contract to Unique Enterprise to import pre-packet election materials for the coming December 8 Senatorial Election and Representative by-elections in Montserrado Electoral District #9 and Sinoe Electoral District #2, respectively.
But at a recent press conference that took place in Monrovia, the NEC claimed it received a letter of ‘No Rejection’ from the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission (PPCC), indicating it received permission from the Public Procurement regulator to order the packaged election materials through Unique Enterprise.
According to the PPCC, Unique Enterprise is a local vendor that does not have any experience in the procurement of election materials in Liberia or any other country within the sub-region.
“We are pleased to announce that on Saturday November 1, 2020, Unique Enterprise, a Liberian-owned company, delivered the prepacked materials (mainly stationery) for the December 8 elections. The arrival of these materials in the country followed the issuance of a letter of ‘No Rejection’ by the PPCC for the NEC to award the said contract to Unique Enterprise,” NEC said in a press statement, dated November 6.
However, the NEC press statement contradicts its earlier press statement issued on November 2, 2020 at a press conference through which NEC informed journalists that its action responsible for awarding the contract to Unique Enterprise was implemented against the PPCC’s regulations.
“The arrival of the prepacked election materials runs contrary to a PPCC rejection of the local Liberian vendor, Unique Enterprise Group of Companies. The company lacks the ability to perform and to meet the November 15, 2020 deadline set by the Elections Commission. The PPCC had earlier informed the public that the vendor, Unique Enterprise was unqualified to supply the elections materials before Election Day (December 8),” NEC’s press statement, dated November 2, said.
It is quite clear that the PPCC informed the public that its issue with the NEC was not only about Unique Enterprise’s capacity to import the materials ahead of time, but lacking approval rating as set forth by the PPCC and NEC’s own criteria.
The PPCC, on October 8, 2020, wrote the NEC acknowledging receipt of its letter seeking a “No Objection” to award the contract to Unique Enterprise and highlighted reasons why Unique Enterprise should have not been considered for the production of elections prepacked materials.
In addition to the controversy regarding to the ordering of the election materials by NEC, PCC’s October 8 letter which in the possession of the Daily Observer, shows that NEC’s request did not show any evidence that the vendor, Unique Enterprise has a business record with prepacked election materials, but that it is involved with the supply of electrical equipment, computers and vehicle tracking devices.
“The PPCC, upon careful review and scrutiny of NEC’s submitted documents observed that the recommended bidder from NEC’s submission is not involved with the supply and delivery of prepacked elections materials, but rather the supply of electrical equipment (Transformers), and computers, lap-tops supplies, IT processing equipment, vehicle tracking devices,” the PPCC letter indicated.
Additionally, PPCC said Unique Enterprise, the controversial vendor, is also involved in management consultancy activities, a contrast to the contract then under review.
The PPCC further indicated that Unique Enterprise is noncompliant and non-responsive to the mandatory requirements set forth in the bidding document issued by the NEC.
“The bidding document and the supreme bid data sheet clearly states, a key mandatory requirement that was not met, a reference list of at least three countries within the West African region, for verification of the competition of the supply and delivery of prepacked election materials for the last four years,” the PPCC document added.
Meanwhile, an election expert, who asked not to be named in this article, has said that the NEC should not have publicly contradicted itself as it did, mainly at a time when there are so many concerns about the credibility of the upcoming elections.
“Should the NEC publicly and flagrantly state that they have brought in the elections materials against PPCC findings, and then turn around in few days to issue another press statement, after the arrival of the materials, to state that the PPCC had issued a ‘letter of No Rejection,’ to proceed in awarding the contract? I think they are wrong and setting a very bad precedent,” our source said.
“This leaves us to ponder, whether there is even a letter known as ‘No–Rejection’ as stated in NEC’S latest press statement. All knowledge of information gathered on the PPCC approvals for contract awards from sources from other entities show that it is only a letter of ‘No–Objection” that the PPCC issues when approving for a contract to proceed and not a letter of “No Rejection as claimed by the NEC,” the source further said.
The source said the NEC is misleading the Liberian People and the general public with all these inconsistencies and seemingly mistruths.
“The Elections Body of Liberia should be clear, given its role as an integrity and transparency Institution when it comes to providing information to the public about its works,” the source added.
According to the source, although there is yet to come proof of NEC’s main objective for contracting the services of Unique Enterprise, the NEC’s preferred company for the delivery of very sensitive and delicate elections materials, NEC is in total violation of the Public Procurement and Concessions Act (PPCA).
Nathan Bengu, PPCC communications director also told the Daily Observer that the NEC’s recommended bidder, Unique Enterprise, lacks the requisite experience and technical qualification to execute such contract package as required by NEC-issued bidding documents and PPCC’s regulations.
“NEC is also in violation of Section 62(2) of the PPCA,” Bengu stressed.
He added: “Even though they acted outside of their own criteria (NEC) that they set themselves, as well as the PPCC regulations, it appears they are complacent there is no harm because prepacked materials have arrived through Unique Enterprise much earlier ahead of November 15, the deadline date. They are in error,” he said.
He further noted “With the processes involved in ensuring that there is a transparent, credible and trusted procurement; mainly with the involvement of the Justice Ministry and the Finance Ministry, as well as the PPCC and the entity procuring or bidding to procure, there are unanswered questions on how NEC by-passed the system, got money and imported the prepacked materials.”
Bengu boasted that PPCC is consistent about its findings that the NEC went against its own criteria, and the PPCC is ready to highlight the facts amid any brewing misinformation.
“NEC’s action, although complacent to itself (NEC), PPCC is making frantic efforts to get to the bottom of how NEC abused the law and is showing no remorse, nor any sign of taking corrective measures for the sake of public trust,” the PPCC spokesperson said.
In a related development the Observer has learnt that PPCC has filed an official complaint to the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) against Joy FM for reporting in its Monday, Nov. 9 edition, a news story citing NEC’s claim of receipt of a letter of “No objection” and alleging that PPCC received kickback (bribe) due to its stance against NEC Violations.
The Daily Observer contacted the NEC several times to to request a copy of the “No-Rejection” letter said to have been issued them by the PPCC, but the NEC failed to produce it.
Joseph Yarsiah, NEC’s Procurement director said because the prepacked materials are already in the country, every other thing about how the NEC succeeded in getting them is mute.
When the Daily Observer contacted the PPCC Executive Director, Atty. Roseline Kowo, regarding the PPCC’s complaint against Joy FM tot he PUL, she declined to comment. However, Assistant Secretary-General of the PUL, Arkoi Baysah, said the Press Union has received PPCC’s complaint and is working out a plan to probe the matter.
History of disagreement between NEC and PPCC ahead of December
It can be recalled that Davidetta Brown Lansanah, National Elections Commission’s chairperson, recently appeared on the October 14 edition of the Super Morning Show of the state-owned Liberia Broadcasting System, accusing the PPCC of stalling processes leading to the December 8 elections by refusing to grant the NEC a letter of no-objection to award the contract to its preferred company, Unique Enterprise, “although unqualified by law.”
Madam Lansanah repeatedly said that due to the crucial nature of the time and the complexities involved in conducting elections and the national referendum, PPCC’s refusal to grant the no-objection could lead to the cancellation of the proposed election date, which could lead the country to constitutional crisis.
But Atty. Roseline Kowo, PPCC’s Executive director, could not be fooled. Kowo, who had a 14-year career with the Elections Commission, served her final five years as the NEC’s Procurement Director, before transitioning to the PPCC. Amid Madam Lansanah’s allegations on the radio talkshow, Atty. Kowo called in to fact-check the NEC boss, and implored her to stop misinforming the public, but do what is right in line with the law.
Atty. Kowo told the Super Morning Show that NEC’s insistence to award the contract to Unique Enterprise was illegal and, as such, the Commission should back off, revisit its own records and consider another vendor that meets the criteria, including those set by NEC itself.
NEC’s own criteria for bids, copy of which is in the possession of the Daily Observer states that before a company is considered for a contract, it must have a “reference list of at least three (3) countries within the West African region, for verification of the completion of the supply and delivery of prepacked contract for the last four years.” Other criteria set by the NEC include: “the company must have evidence of tax payment clearance, provision of audited financial reports for the past year prior to the year in which it seeks contract from the NEC through a competitive bidding process.”
Sadly, and as noticed and referenced to by the PPCC, Unique Enterprise’s records are yet to be made public for verification as to whether the company truly meets the requirements.
Instead of Unique Enterprise coming out to the public to defend its own portfolio, NEC chairperson, Davidetta Brown Lansanah has been and continues to blow the trumpet for the company against the laws and regulations, including the NEC’s own.
Reliable sources from the NEC, reaching the Daily Observer also indicated the NEC’s insistence to use Unique Enterprise, wrote a 2nd letter to the PPCC, though the vendor was clearly outside the scope of the NEC’s prescribed requirements, and that the PPCC remained firm on its position that the NEC’s violation of its own criteria. The PPCC vacated any liability to approve in the letter sent to NEC, but rather left NEC to take its own responsibility and apparently issued no approval at all, contrary to NEC’s claim.
-Daily Observer’s investigation continues