Liberia: NEC Chair, Co-chair Disagree over Selection of LAXTON for Biometric Voter Registration Exercise

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MONROVIA – Ten months to elections, yet the National Elections Commission (NEC) appears to be in a disarray as the chairperson and the co-chairperson disagree on the manner in which the Biometric Voter Registration exercise was awarded to LAXTON.

LAXTON was recently awarded the US$11.9 million contract to provide all biometric materials and equipment for the 2023 Elections Biometric Voter Roll.

LAXTON was awarded the contract after EKEMP International which was first selected by the NEC but was rejected by the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC).

LAXTON was awarded the contract after the NEC requested “No Objection” from the PPCC.  In its response, the PPCC stated, “The no objection is hereby rendered for the NEC to award contract to LAXTON Group in the amount of USD $ 11, 956,834.32 for the supply and delivery of Biometric voter Registration Equipment, software and materials for the 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections.”

However, the co-chairperson of the NEC, Cllr. P. Teplah Reeves believes that LAXTON was selected under conflicting conditions.

FrontPageAfrica has seen a November 22, 2022 communication from Cllr. Reeves questioning the chairperson, Cllr. Davidetta Brown Lansanah, wrote the letter to the PPCC for ‘No Objection’ when the Evaluation Panel did not follow instructions on the process that should have been followed.

The Evaluation Committee were tasked to look out for the most responsive bidder in terms of value for money, delivery in the shortest possible time, and ability to pre-finance.

Cllr. Reeves reminded the chairperson that she had previously written the PPCC on October 21, 2022 indicating that the LAXTON Group used laptops during their demonstration and not tablets as prescribed by the bid and was a result checked to be unresponsive. She also included that LAXTON had the longest delivery time of 147 days from the signing of the contract.

“In view of the foregoing, how could you Madam Chair, and the Procurement Committee turn to LAXTON to be a responsive bidder again after the Bid Evaluation Panel conclusion on LAXTON was indicated in your October 25 letter to the PPCC,” she asked.

Cllr. Reeves also expressed surprise that she was informed by Madam Lansanah that the bid process was doing to be concluded on Wednesday, November 23, 2022 only to be awakened to newspapers publication that the contracts were already awarded to LAXTON.

She also claimed the head of the Evaluation Panel, Atty. Jalloh, was conflicted because he is the legal counsel for the NEC and at the same time appointed as chairman of the Bid Evaluation Panel.

“Madam Chair, in my mind, the appointment of Atty. Jalloh as Chairman of the Bid Evaluation Panel makes him conflicted which I stated in the Procurement meeting. I believe if this was in the USA, Atty. Jalloh would have been disbarred by the American Bar Association” she stated.

In the PPCC’s “no objection”, the NEC is advised to submit a copy of the final contract to the PPCC for validity and reporting, as required by the PPCA.

The PPCC  also admonished and deemed it a priority that the NEC remains primarily in compliance with the PPCA, as they both jointly aspire to achieve transparency, accountability, value for money and ultimate public confidence in Liberia’s Public procurement and concession processes.

The PPCC  ‘no objection’ was a result of the NEC re-evaluation report submitted which amongst many states that after reviews of bidders, including, EIS, Laxton Group, Waymark/Mwetena, they were responsive to the re-demonstration requirements:  Data Entry, Printing of ID card, Duplication, software, and responsiveness to other indicated requirement in the bids.

In the NEC previous recommendations to the PPCC, the chairperson of the Commission said the comparative audited income statements of each of the bidders show that only Ekemp/INITS/Palm and Laxton have implemented a project worth amount over the last two years.

Madam Davidetta Brown-Lansannah also said Laxton failed to provide audited financial statements for the immediate past year (2021), which is a requirement in the standard bidding documents.

Laxton only provided statements for the fiscal years 2020 and 2019 and did not provide audited financial statements.

Moreover, Laxton expressed a condition regarding its ability to pre-finance. 

It can be recalled that there has been an unending back-and-forth communication between the two integrity institutions in the wake of the selection of one of the bidders, EKEMP, during the first round of the bidding process where PPCC objected to NEC selection and ordered a rerun of the entire process to include video recording and submission of USB drive.

At the second round, EKEMP was again selected but PPCC for the second time objected to the choice, citing the failure of EKEMP to print an enrolled card during a specific period allotted and insisted that NEC should pick from among the other contenders as the alternative preferred bidder.

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