Liberia: LACC Indicts NEC Chair, Court Issues Writ for Her Arrest But She’s Reportedly in Flight

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MONROVIA – Madam Davidetta Browne Lansanah, the embattled chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC), had scheduled a staff meeting for 10:30 Thursday morning, but she suddenly abandoned the meeting and her office on Thursday after she was tipped of an indictment that has been drawn against her by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission.

Sources at the NEC said she did not show up for work the whole of Thursday.

While court sheriffs are yet to find her whereabouts to serve her the indictment, the court has issued a Writ of Arrest on her in order to bring her under the jurisdiction of the court. The writ was issued by Criminal Court ‘C’.

Madam Lansanah has been indicted by the LACC for money laundering (inside trading and market manipulation), violation of the Code of Conduct, conflict of interest relative to the use of office for private interest and failure to disclose interest.

Up to press time on Thursday, the whereabouts of Madam Lansannah remained unknown.

The NEC Chairperson came under a barrage of public scrutiny and investigation by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) after investigative media reports disclosed that she had rented 22 pieces of facial recognition thermometers for US$182,000. The thermometers were used for the November by-elections in four counties.

The thermometers were rented from a company owned by her brothers.

Upon investigation, the LACC in its report, recommended the dismissal of madam Lansanah as head of the electoral body. The LACC also recommended the head of the procurement department of the NEC.

Speaking on the investigation last week, the head of the LACC, Cllr. Edward Martin, disclosed that the NEC Chairman admitted awarding the contract to her brother David Brown, Vice President for Operation of the Tuma Enterprise Incorporated without disclosing her interest.

“During the investigations, Madame Dividatta Browne Lansana admitted and confirmed to the investigation that Mtotaling Brown, Vice President for Operations of TUMA Enterprises is her brother from the same father, while Arnold Badio, owner and incorporator of Tuma Enterprise Inc. is a brother to David Browne from the same Mother,” Cllr. Martins said.

Cllr. Martins said the National Elections Commission also awarded a certificate of completion to Tuma Enterprises on October 24, 2021, and paid a full amount of US$182,320.00 while the stipulated date for the contract to end was November 20, 2021.

The Anti-Graft Chief maintained that the NEC boss and the head of the Procurement Committee needed to be discharged of their duties, claiming that their action violates Chapter 1, Section 1 &3 of the National Code of Conduct for all public officials which amount to a conflict of interest.

The LACC in its November 2021 investigation, reported that elections authorities were conflicted in the award of the contract and did not follow procurement regulations and there was no value for money.

“These allegations found the bases for the commencement of investigations into the matter,” Cllr. Martins said.

Part II, Section2.2 of the Act establishing the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission describes inside-trading as an act of corruption and also in violation of section 15.3 (predicate offenses for money laundering under section 15.2 of the Money laundering Act of 2012 which provides(t) Insider Trading and Market Manipulations.

Also, FrontPageAfrica has seen a communication from the Public Procurement Concession Commission to the LACC indicating that the PPCC was unaware of any contract for the rental of facial recognition and temperature check machines, neither did they approve any such contract.

The PPCC’s communication disclosed that the NEC submitted its procurement plan on August 17, 2021 and it was reviewed and approved on August 27, 2021.

A procurement plan is a document prepared by a procuring entity indicating type of items (goods, works, and services) to be procured, coding with procurement method, timelines for invitation or advertisement, bid opening, evaluation, procurement committee approval and expected delivery date, etc.

“The PPCC states that there was no contract package nor description for facial recognition and temperature testing machines presented and indicated by the NEC on its Bong, Nimba, Grand Gedeh, and Bomi Counties by-elections procurement plan and accompanying notes,” the PPCC indicated in the communication.

The PPCC further explained that the NEC’s procurement plan included only four rentals including vehicle rental and lease (sole source), verification equipment (restricted bidding), Motorbikes rental and lease, and conference hall rental.

The PPCC indicated that the procurement processes below US$200,000 are not subject to the PPCC’s prior review and approval before award of contract as the procedures and regulations.

However, PPC Act Part 1 and 27(c) requires a procuring entity to conduct processes in consonance with applicable procedures: invite bidders, issue bidding document, conduct bid opening, conduct due diligence, and evaluate the proposals from bidders, recommend a responsive bidder in line with the predetermined criteria and submit to the Procurement Committee for acceptance or rejection and institute all applicable values and principles during the conduct of these processes.

Meanwhile, Madam Lansanah has denied any form of admission of guilt of financial impropriety to the LACC.

In a press conference held last Sunday, Madam Lansana said that the LACC had yet to served her agency with a copy of the report.

The NEC Chairperson said she could not provide a detailed response to allegations in the LACC’s Investigation report until she can see a copy of the report.

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