Liberia: Budget Com’tee Ignores NEC US$2m Infusion Claim

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MONROVIA – The Liberian Senate Budget Committee has ignored claims made by the chair of the National Elections Commission (NEC) of the infusion of over two million United States dollars into the Commission’s 2022 budget by one of the commissioners.

The Senate’s decision to ignore the claim is due to discovery that said amount is not in the2022 draft National Budget.

However, the Committee says it will inform Plenary about what would have been an intended fraud.

On Thursday, Madam Davidetta Browne-Lassannah, chair of the National Elections Commission (NEC), told members of the Senate Budget Committee that her discovery of US$2,809,510 in the Commission’s 2022 was done in the draft.

Mr. Floyd O. Sayor, one of the Commissioners at the NEC was accused by the head Commissioner of illegally inserting US$2,809,510 in the Commission’s 2022 budget leading to the 2023 Presidential and General Elections Budget unbeknownst to her and other members of NEC Board of Commissioners.

In his response, he told members of the Budget Committee that the budget line item has existed since 2005.

According to him, money placed under this line item are used for tracking election materials during election period which includes vehicles transporting ballots, canoes transporting ballot materials, and motorbikes transporting ballot materials.

In a memo to Commissioner Sayor, dated December 8, 2021, in the possession of this newspaper, Madam Browne Lansanah, brought this to Commissioner Sayor’s attention: “During the current or most recent (1-8 December 2021) Review of the 2022 Budget for defense, it was observed an insertion of some US$2,809,510.00 was made for live monitoring and tracking systems, for vehicles, bikes, casual laborers, canoes carrying Election Materials with no reference to my office, let along other sections, including Operations, Logistics, etc.

Besides, there was no prior discussion or agreement/decision by the Board to undertake such an extensive venture in 2022-23, which increased the budget by US$2.8 million. Not having knowledge about this four (4)-line items and going into defense of the 2022 budget would have been a disaster on my part as Chair of NEC. This would have been irresponsible on my part not having knowledge of this budget aspect.”

She sternly stated in the memo to Sayor that her office takes exception to this event.

One of the listed items — live monitoring and tracking systems — raised by Chairperson Lansanah, has landed her in hot water and brought the Commission to public disrepute. She is now fighting a court battle to clear her name after the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) had found her guilty of using US$182,320 to rent 20 pieces of facial recognition system for the conduct of the by-elections in four counties from the company owned and operated by her biological brother, David Browne.

The intended use of the equipment was to detect the temperatures of voters during the November 16 by-elections in Nimba, Bong, Grand Gedeh, and Bomi Counties.

With the same or similar monitoring and tracking systems being captured again in the materials for the conduct of the 2023 Presidential and General Elections for a whooping US$2.8 million, the Commission and its Board of Commissioners risk being heavily ridiculed by the public.

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