As eligible Liberian voters are expected to go to the polls to elect a new administration of government in the executive and legislative branches in the next 55 days, evidence in the possession of the Daily Observer suggests that some activities of National Elections Commission are being conducted in ways that could compromise the elections process. For example, a particular instance that nearly discredited the voter registration process, the Daily Observer has learned, was connected to a procurement award that backfired. The contractor in that faulty procurement award, Inkript Offshore SAL, now stands a chance to win another award to the tune of US$2,280,047, in spite of a clear breach of procurement procedure by the NEC.
Thus, the office of the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) wants the National Elections Commission (NEC) to demonstrate respect for the rule of law in connection with its bidding process. The executive director of the PPCC, Mr. James Dorbor Jallah, in an interview yesterday in Monrovia said the NEC chairman, Jerome G. Korkoya, and his corps of fellow commissioners should understand that inasmuch as elections are crucial, respect for the public procurement laws must be respected.
Mr. Jallah’s statement follows a confirmed report that the NEC, under the watchful eyes of Korkoya, wants to deny a Joint Venture (JV) involving M-Tosh Print Media and Uniprint their right to fulfill a tender which the joint venture had been recommended by the NEC Bid Evaluation Panel to provide pre-packed materials, including kits, for the conduct of the October elections.
“Eleven companies recently applied to bid for the provision of pre-packed materials and were vetted by the evaluation committee of the NEC, who in turn submitted their findings to the NEC’s procurement committee. The procurement committee, headed by Korkoya, decided to award the contract to Inkript (one of the companies) that did not win, instead of Uniprint, which succeeded in meeting all procurement procedures,” Jallah said.
Uniprint is a South African company experienced in delivering materials for elections in many African countries and is in partnership with M-Tosh Print Media, a Liberian company. According to Jallah, the NEC’s reasons for not wanting to hand the contract to Uniprint are completely wrong and unlawful. Uniprint’s bid quote is US$2,113,805.22, a difference of US$156,241.78 lower than Inkript’s quote.
Jallah quoted the NEC as saying that “Uniprint’s partner, M-Tosh Print Media, has a bunch of young Liberians who are just ‘hustlers’ who don’t have money to pre-finance the contract except that Uniprint will take the burden; that M-Tosh submitted only one year of financial audit report instead of two years as required by a PPCC law, and that the JV (Uniprint and M-Tosh) did not quote for air freight transport, even though Uniprint agreed to transport the materials to Liberia through whatever acceptable means within 30 days as stipulated in the bidding expectations.”
Jallah said the PPCC is in complete disagreement with the NEC for describing M-Tosh Media Print, Inc. as a “bunch of Liberian youth who are just hustlers” although Uniprint, which is M-Tosh’s partner, has agreed to underwrite the cost of transporting the materials and has more than two years of complete financial audit report as required under our laws.
Inkript, meanwhile, has been in business with NEC prior to the bid in question. Inkript Offshore SAL is a Lebanese company and printer of the machine-readable voter registration (VR) forms that were found to be incompatible with the scanners during the VR process earlier this year. The incompatibility of the machine readable forms significantly delayed the voter roll exhibition process in which people who had registered to vote and obtained VR cards did not find their names on the voter roll. When this fault in the process was exposed, NEC chairman Korkoya unilaterally announced that those who had voter registration cards but whose names were not found on the voter roll, would still be allowed to vote. Cllr. Korkoya’s remarks were made in the context of earlier instances of illegal attempts by non-Liberians trying to register to vote; illegal possession of voter registration forms by some individuals; as well as the rampant sale of voter cards in various electoral districts.
The Elections Coordinating Committee is on record for having called on the NEC chairman to ensure transparency in the handing of the elections process, ever since irregularities with the voter registration process were exposed.
The PPCC boss called on Korkoya and his colleagues to stop playing games with the ensuing elections if they truly mean well for Liberia, the country they all claim to love. “You won’t believe it that I went to President Sirleaf and reported the difficulties we are experiencing in working with the NEC on this matter and she asked Finance Minister Boima Kamara to intervene since it borders around financial matters. Unfortunately, nothing good came out of the meeting as Korkoya disagreed with almost everything I proffered. He rained insults on me in the presence of Kamara and refused to accept the orders of my office,” he said.
Jallah noted that Korkoya’s letter to him, dated August 4, 2017, did not speak of his willingness to see any problem solved, but was instead waged an attack on the PPCC. “From all indications, and particularly following all of our stages which included the preliminary, technical and financial that are set for any institution to win a bid, Uniprint and M-Tosh deserve the contract rather than Inkript,” Jallah said.
In his 12 page response dated August 14, 2017 to Korkoya’s seven page letter, Jallah noted that, “The PPCC has not granted the objection you seek because all relevant matters duly considered, your decision to award the contract in question to INKRIPT is, in the considered view of the PPCC, neither ‘fair’ nor ‘non discriminatory,’ nor would it, under the circumstance, constitute an ‘economic and efficient use of public funds,’ as also required by the Act. That, in the view of the PPCC, the NEC is in substantial breach of the relevant provisions of the PPCA that the PPCC is statutorily empowered and required to implement.”
Efforts to reach Cllr. Korkoya in person and via telephone did not materialize. His phone was switched off and his staffer, Lorenzo Harmon, could not reach him.
Meanwhile, the contract between NEC and Uniprint was expected to be signed since July 20, 2017 with an estimated delivery date of August 19, 2017, just three days to the estimated delivery date. The contract has not been signed, while Korkoya is on record making all efforts to justify awarding the contract to the Leabanese company, Inkript.