Liberia: ‘Chinese Embassy Getting Angry That Country’s Name Is Being Mischaracterized in NEC Biometric VR Process’
Monrovia – Diplomatic sources have hinted to this newspaper that authorities at the People’s Republic of China Embassy near Monrovia are angry that their country’s name is being mischaracterized in the ongoing discussions concerning the National Elections Commission’s (NEC) choice of which company should do the 2023 Voters Registration biometric voter card process.
Few weeks ago, the NEC had opened the bids of the six companies, including joint ventures, that had vied showing their competencies to win the bid to do the biometric voters registration card for the 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections.
Out of the six had applied, only the Joint Venture of Ekemp International Limited, INITS Limited, and Palm Insurance Inc., was chosen by the Commission because it was the “most responsive bidder in the international competitive bidding for the IFB No. NEC/VRPLE/ICB/001/2002.”
The companies chosen are a combination of three companies, which have poured their resources together to win the bid. One of the three combined entities—Palm Insurance—is a Liberian-owned insurance company. The other two, Ekemp is a Chinese-own and INITS is Nigerian based.
After the NEC had exhausted its internal processes, it wrote the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) asking for a “no objection” for it to grant Ekemp/INITS/Palm Joint Venture the go ahead to do the biometric process.
However, following this choice, it’s mostly only Ekemp’s name that is being mentioned as the sole winner of the bid. And when it is mentioned, it is usually blended in some quarters as a “Chinese company” that has been given the sole right to do the biometric process.
This is probably not going down right with the Chinese Embassy near Monrovia as diplomatic sources have hinted.
China has become one of Liberia’s biggest post-war development partners. Their handiworks are visible around the country and can be seen in the health, and educational sectors. The world’s second largest economy’s deeds are also seen in Liberia’s roads and other infrastructural sectors, including the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Ministerial Complex.
Our diplomatic sources hint that the Chinese are upset and very concerned that some Liberians in high places and other residents in the country are criticizing only the Chinese Company, and indirectly the People’s Republic of China for the insecurity of the data that would be gathered from the Voter Registration process by the EKEMP Joint Venture. Ekemp JV has spoken of its confidence in the biometric solutions it has offered in countries and election management bodies it has worked for and upholds these internationally recognized Cyber Security standards.
“China has done so much for Liberia and is in a close continuing working relationship with the government. The report that a Chinese company’s presence in the NEC procurement process could create insecurity of the voters’ data could generate a row diplomatically and cause the Liberian government to lose much tangible support to the country given by China,” our sources opined.
There are reports that one of those propagating the falsehoods about Ekemp is a former NEC executive. It is also stated that this former NEC worker, is also allegedly fronting for one of the other five companies that failed to meet up with the NEC bid requirements.
Meanwhile, according to a September 20th, 2022 communication, the PPCC demanded that among other things, its wants to see a video-recorded demonstration before it can give its approval for the Elections body to continue with its process. Sources have stated that this will likely hamper the 2023 election timeline for the December 15, 2022 start of voters’ registration.
Notwithstanding, the Chairperson and Members of the Board of Commissioners in a recent meeting with the UN and members of the international community have assured that the PPCC’s directive to re-evaluate and re-demonstrate the presentations made by the bidders would be conducted.