Liberia: Vehicle Vendors Threaten Protest Action Against NEC Over US$1M Debt

Monrovia – Several aggrieved Liberian entrepreneurs who rendered vehicle rental services to the National Elections Commission (NEC) for the conduct of the December 8, 2020 Senatorial elections across the country have threatened to stage a peaceful protest due to the delay in the payment of a US$1M debt owed them by the commission.

The aggrieved Liberian entrepreneurs under the banner: Vehicle Rental Vendors claimed that since the climax of their contract which was signed with the NEC prior to the conduct of the senatorial elections; the commission is yet to settle the arrears.

They sounded the warning in a leaked communication dated March 30, 2021 and addressed to the Chairperson of the NEC, Counselor Davidetta Brown Lansanah under the signature of their Head James Wesseh.

In the communication, a copy which is in the possession of this paper, the aggrieved Liberian vehicle vendors disclosed that they were hired during the just ended senatorial election to provide transportation services throughout the 15 counties of Liberia.

They pointed out that though their various companies have been partnering with the NEC over the years to ensure the conduct of free, fair and transparent elections in Liberia, the commission has failed to recognize their efforts by living up to the terms and conditions of the recent agreement signed.

They recalled that despite the holding of multiple meetings intended to ensure that the NEC pay the amount owed in a timely manner, nothing has been done so far to settle the matter.

“Honorable Chair, as you may be aware, we had three separate meetings with your entity that led to no result but mare promises. Just for your information these twelve Vehicle Rental Vendors are legally registered as Liberian owned businesses and were awarded approximately One million United States Dollars ($1,000,000.00 USD) contract to provide transportation services during the December 2020 midterm Senatorial Elections”.

“Our businesses were required to 100% pre-finance the contract and we were going to be fully paid upon completion after a month and it is now four months plus with no outcomes on payments”.

The aggrieved vehicles vendors maintained that owing to the fact that they wanted to be in full compliance to the term and conditions, and understanding the nature of election and how important it is to a country’s democracy, they took loans from various commercial banks and provided their respective properties as collaterals.

They alarmed that they stand the risk of the courts confiscating their properties, including homes and other valuable items if they failed to settle their indebtedness to the various commercial banks they took loans from to implement the NEC contract.

“Your institution’s action not to pay us for services rendered is a glaring fact that we as Liberian owned businesses are more than spectators in their own economy”.

“Madam Chairlady, we have exercised all restrains and are placed to a point that we can’t go any further. Please accept this communication as our final diplomatic approach because our next approach will be a peaceful protest with our Trucks, jeeps, Pickups and family members at your offices in demand of our payments which we don’t intend to do”.

NEC’s position

In a recent press release issued by the NEC under the signature of its Deputy Communication Director Prince Dunbar, the commission admitted to being indebted to the aggrieved Liberian vehicle vendors.

The commission, however, blamed the situation on the delay by authorities of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to release the remaining US$3M plus for the conduct of the December 8 senatorial election.

The NEC recalled that representatives of Vendors who provided services to the 2020 Special Senatorial Elections, (SSE), Constitutional Referendum and Representative By-elections held a meeting at their request with the Chairperson and Senior Executive Officers of the National Elections Commission, (NEC) on Thursday, 18 March 2021.

According to the commission, the meeting was intended to highlight the challenges faced by the vendors due to the lack of payment of liabilities to their companies by the NEC.   

“Most of the vendors spoke about pending court actions against them and increased interest rates on loans to pre-finance services to NEC.

They indicated that doing business with the NEC during the 2020 Special Senatorial Elections without payment to them, has become a burden to their companies and families and has rendered them credit unworthy with Banking Institutions” the NEC stated in the press release.

The commission named some of the companies that have been affected as  Solid Rock Logistics, Bean Transport, Mawata Transport, Jimmy Incorporated and LINK Liberia Incorporated.

The release further disclosed that the NEC Chairperson Davidetta Browne Lansanah underscored the difficulty in making payment to vendors in the absence of funding from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, since the Commission does not raise its own funds.

“The NEC Boss explained that the Commission has made representation to the authorities backed by series of documentations and mobile calls and text messages raising the issue of payment to vendors and that the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning is yet to provide the remaining US$3.milliom plus to the Commission to enable NEC service its debt. The NEC Chairperson appeal to the vendors as the Commission re-strategizes to ensure the NEC gets funded to address its liabilities”.

It remains unclear whether or not the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning will adhere to the numerous calls for the release of the remaining portion of the funds requested by the National Elections Commission for the conduct of the just ended senatorial election across the country.

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