Liberia: Supreme Court Rejects NEC Chair’s Preferred Ekemp’s Case
By David S. Menjor
Senate further looks into solution based ideas for the Biometric Voter Registration to begin as scheduled
The Daily Observer is reliably informed that the Supreme Court of Liberia has dismissed the case filed by Ekemp, the controversial company selected by Davidetta Browne Lansanah’s procurement committee at the National Elections Commission (NEC) to deliver technical equipment, training and support for the much publicized Biometric Voter Registration (BVR).
Our source, who followed the happenings at the Court and asked to remain anonymous for this report, said Ekemp, through its lawyers, filed to the Supreme Court an injunction seeking to put halt to the NEC’s ongoing controversial procurement process. However, the Justice in Chamber, Associate Justice Yussif Kaba informed the complainant that there is still a remedy at the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) that it (Ekemp) has not exhausted and, as such, the highest Court would not venture into making any determination, whatsoever.
Lansanah is chairperson of NEC and, as per the Commission’s original calendar of activities, the Biometric Voter Registration is expected to Commence on December 17, 2022 and end in March 2023. Civic voter education is expected to have begun by now but, due the unending controversy surrounding who should be awarded the BVR contract, the process is stalled indefinitely.
Although there is no official documentation released per Justice Kaba’s decision to reject Ekemp’s case, our source said the Associate Justice made the decision on Tuesday, November 8.
The case was the second of its kind filed by Ekemp, calling on the Supreme Court to compel the NEC and the PPCC to accept the sample BVR card that Ekemp printed, albeit outside of the stipulated time set aside by NEC for each company that was qualified to participate in the video-recorded re-demonstration exercise.
In the first complaint, Ekemp argued that NEC’s procurement evaluation panel interfered with its presentation by requesting for a PowerPoint Presentation, something the company alleged caused it technical hitches and that such request was not made of any other company that participated in the process.
The Supreme Court, the Daily Observer gathered, called on NEC to accept the printed card and include it in its presentation report.
However, the Daily Observer has further gathered from Ekemp’s re-demonstration video that, even though the image of the sample VR card featured a female wearing a sleeveless jacket bearing the inscriptions ‘ECC’ and ‘USAID’, the sample VR card that was submitted into evidence by Ekemp to NEC’s procurement panel featured a male image.
NEC chairman, Lansanah has been and continues to be unyielding and uncompromising in giving the contract to Ekemp, even though the company flopped in both its demonstrations.
The Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC), having reviewed Ekemp’s re-demonstration video, as it was done in the case of the first presentation — which by then had only still photos as evidence — rejected to grant NEC the approval of a “No Objection” for the company to take the Biometric VR contract.
Willfully or not, the NEC chair said at a press conference held at the Commission’s headquarters in Sinkor recently that some companies, particularly Ekemp’s key competitors, HID Global-PSI, did not print any sample BVR card and that the company (HID Global) lacks the capacity to pre-finance, even though her procurement committee’s report has in it that HID Global-PSI is one of the two ventures, including Ekemp that has met the requirement to pre-finance.
Lansanah claimed that HID Global did not submit any audited financial report as required by the NEC’s bid document and, as such, no proof was available as to whether the company has the capacity to pre-finance.
On the contrary, however, the Daily Observer gathered documentary evidence showing that HID Global-PSI submitted three years worth of audited financial reports (FY 2019, 2020 and 2021) to NEC and that the company in fact worths over US$6 billion, compared to Ekemp that is worth US$12 million and the rest of the other companies in the bidding process even far below Ekemp.
Both NEC and PPCC have appeared before the Senate Committee on Autonomous Agencies and Commissions and, at each appearance, PPCC reiterated to the Legislators that its quest is to see to it that NEC does what is right, rather than doing the wrong thing that might have a trickle-down effect possible of creating a serious problem for the country’s electoral process.
Davidetta Brown Lansanah believes her procurement team is doing the right thing and, as such, she does not believe that NEC is proceeding wrongly.
In the last meeting with the Senate Committee, the Committee recommended in its report that NEC either dissolves the ongoing controversial bidding process and re-seek applications from potential companies to produce the materials, training and technical support or move on with the next qualified company, knowing that Ekemp has failed to justify or convince why it should be considered for the job.
With the country running out of time relative to the elections date in October next year, Lansanah neither agreed with nor opposed the first recommendation from the Senate Committee.
She, however, frowned and expressed disappointment that the Senate Committee’s leaked report was totally against the best principles of inter-institutional meetings, since she was not informed that her appearance was on the record and that she was being recorded.
For the second recommendation about considering another company apart from Ekemp, Lansanah gave the suggestion an even colder shoulder, further suggesting her determination to give the contract to Ekemp.
At the recent press conference, she said that while it is true that she has not yet awarded a contract to any company, her preferred company is Ekemp.
Meanwhile, Daily Observer has reliably gathered that the Senate was to have convened a meeting with NEC yesterday but, instead, met with authorities of the Liberia Institute for Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) and scheduled the meeting with NEC at a later date.
LISGIS is expected to commence the census on Friday November 11.
Montserrado County Senator Saah Joseph, who is expected to preside over the conference between the Senate and the NEC, told the Daily Observer via phone that it is hoped that decisions will be reached and the BVR will get underway as planned.
“I don’t want to go into the details, but I will preside over the consultation and it is our hope that we will reach a point of putting the interest of the country above everything else. It will be resolved, I can assure you,” Sen. Joseph said, noting that the outcome of the meeting will be made public at the appropriate time.
Source Daily Observer.