Liberia: Five Bidders Reinvited To Showcase Qualification For Voter Identification System For 2023 Elections

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Monrovia – Liberia’s National Elections Commission will today begin reevaluating the five companies looking to secure the contract for the use of a controversial biometric voter-identification system to prevent electoral fraud and chaos, which has marred previous elections.

In a communication to all six bidders dated September 26, 2022, the NEC evaluation panel wrote:

The Public Procurement Concessions Commission (PPCC) has requested that bidders be reinvited to appear before the Bid Evaluation Panel of the NEC for a video-recorded redemonstration of Physical presentations, regarding bid IFB No. NEC/VRPLE/ICB/)/2022.

In this regard, the Bid Evaluation Panel has scheduled bidders to appear before it on the date and time as shown in the below schedule.

Each Bidder is requested to start with a PowerPoint presentation regarding the equipment and software to be used, followed by an actual demonstration of its data entry, printing and de-duplication process- using a person /persons designated by the panel.

Please have a copy of the PowerPoint presentation (on a flash drive) to submit to the Panel on the day of the Presentation.

Please also note that the panel has decided to invite stakeholders and others to observe the presentation

The biometric voter registration materials contract in question is worth nearly US$12 million. Six companies — Waymark and Mwetana, HID Global and PSI, Electoral Services International, Network Solutions, Laxton, and Ekemp applied and participated in the evaluation process conducted by the evaluation panel, but EKEMP was considered the most responsive, something that brought about concerns from sources following the procedure.

In recent months, NEC has come under pressure to dash its optical manual registration (OMR) system. The OMR system, for many, does not improve the accountability and transparency of electoral processes and is usually tainted by controversy and mistrust. 

“Over the period of one year now, the effort has been made to transition from the OMR registration to the biometric technology for the registration of voters. Biometric systems have advantages, and we would ensure they are properly utilized for the best interest of all eligible voters and the country in general,” said NEC chairperson Davidetta Browne Lansanah. 

The electoral body was forced to reevaluate the bidders after the Public Procurement Concessions Commission (PPCC) urging NEC to return to status quo ante and redo the bill evaluation for the procurement of the new system.

In its September 20 response to NEC’s request for reconsideration to allow EKEMP and partners to proceed with the contract, the PPCC said there is no other way but for NEC to adhere to its (PPCC) recommendations in order to ensure the process meets the required criteria as set forth in the bid document prepared by the Commission (NEC). 

“The Commission, upon overall review and scrutiny of the NEC’s justifications for reconsideration, states that the NEC’s justifications tendered cannot suffice, given that they do not address the anomalies PPCC indicated, as per the September 9, 2022 communication that established the need to re-evaluate; also considering re-demonstration of the performance and functionalities of the biometric system,” PPCC executive director, Jargbe Roseline Nagbe-Kowo, wrote to Davidetta Brown Lansanah, chairperson of NEC.

The PPCC executive director added that “NEC should note keenly that PPCC’s role, under its prior review obligations and mandates as prescribed by law, is to authenticate [that] the bidding processes conducted are in line with applicable procedures, fairly and transparently, and that bidders are treated equitably in terms of review and scrutiny of offers.”

The PPCC has been insistent that NEC follow the guidelines fairly and transparently.

NEC has accused the PPCC of failing to respond to concerns it (PPCC) has raised that should be addressed. NEC thinks this might create hurdles in the future if not responded to now.

In its September 13 letter to PPCC, NEC sought clarity on both the re-evaluation and re-demonstration, more so that not knowing what exactly is required might cause a delay in the voter registration process.

While the NEC seeks answers as to how PPCC wants it to proceed, the NEC has told the Daily Observer that it has accepted to conduct both the re-evaluation and re-demonstration.

Regarding PPCC’s September 9 statement on the expertise and lack of pre-finance capacity of the joint venture of Ekemp, INITS, and Palm, NEC has asked that if the answer is yes, whether EKEMP does still qualify as a bidder again participate, NEC should state in its response.

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