With less than 30 days to the much anticipated Presidential and Representative elections, the Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD), has flagged biases within the electoral process, including the use of state vehicles for campaign purposes, abuse of incumbency and denial of opposition political parties to use community town halls, district town halls and city halls in some parts of the country.
Mercy G. Sackey, Project Manager for IREDD at a press conference in Monrovia, recently said the abolition of the Legislative Support Project is important because they do not serve any development intent but rather it is a political tool and a waste of tax payers’ money which is only intended to benefit few individuals.
She said IREDD has observed gross violations of Sections 8.1 and 8.2 of the Code of Conduct which prohibits public officials and employees of government from using public facilities and the services of public servants for unofficial purposes and party gains.
She said across the country, the use of development projects such as County Social Development Funds and Legislative Support Projects paid for by tax payers money as campaign tools for personal benefit is widespread. In Nimba County’s District #5, Rep. Samuel Kogar did dedicate several projects completed in the district from the District Development Funds and he is using them to his advantage for his re-election campaign.
Madam Sackey said on July 27th, 2017, Cllr. Fonati Koffa of the Liberty Party (LP) was denied usage of the town hall in the Buah Gee District on grounds that the caretaker of the hall had traveled to Monrovia.
“Our local monitor reported that the Alternative National Congress (ANC) was denied access to use the same town hall upon the instructions of the incumbent lawmaker, Numene T. H. Bartekwa on August 5th, 2017. This incident was corroborated by the August 7th edition of the FrontPage Africa newspaper,” she said.
According to Madam Sackey, Rep. Bartekwa, a member of the ruling Unity Party, is alleged to have ordered that no opposition political party be given access to use the town hall, which IREDD views these occurrences as a gross abuse of incumbent power and undermines fair play and could instigate tension.
She continued, “In Lofa County, the Movement for Economic Empowerment (MOVEE) was denied the usage of the Foya Town Hall on June 17, weeks after it had paid for the usage of the hall by William Kamba, the party’s representative and obtained an official receipt. But the Statutory Superintendent, Tennyson S. T. Falkornia instructed the City Mayor not to open the hall. Through the intervention of the Town Chief, the hall was later turned over to the party causing several hours of delays for their program.”
On July 12, the Superintendent of Nimba County, Dorr D. Cooper publicly declared his support for the Unity Party’s incumbent, Vice President Joseph Boakai on a radio show and encouraged citizens of the county to do same. We wish to remind Cooper that he is not a Superintendent of Unity Party’s citizens in Nimba but a Superintendent of the whole Nimba County and his actions undermine public trust and grossly violate the code of conduct.
She said IREDD’s monitoring efforts across the country have documented incidences which undermine electoral integrity, fairness and must be checked and stopped.
Giving recommendations, Madam Sackey said “We call on the Unity Party and officials of the government both within the Legislature and the Executive branch of government to desist their current attempts of political machoism and the muscling of the political space to allow all political parties free and unhindered access to state facilities across the country for as long as they are paying for the use of the facilities.”
She also called on the General Service Agency (GSA), to take swift action to take stock of all official government vehicles and the enforcement of the Code of Conduct to prevent officials of government from using state assets for political campaigning.
“IREDD calls on all political parties to uphold and respect the electoral laws of Liberia and on the National Elections Commission to be more forceful in ensuring compliance with the provisions of the elections law,” she recommended.
On June 2017, IREDD embarked on monitoring electoral malfeasance with the objective of contributing to strengthening electoral integrity in the October 2017 Elections.