Liberia: Senate Summons Head of Elections Commission Over Biometrics Bidding Controversy


Controversy between the National Elections Commission and the Public Procurement and Concession Commission over biometric bidding Takes Center Stage

Monrovia – The Plenary of the House of Representatives has summoned the chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC) Davidetta Browne- Lansanah and Commissioners to brief that August body on its preparedness to conduct Liberia’s first biometric voter registration exercise.

The decision was triggered by a communication proffered by Rep. Thomas Goshua (District #5, Grand Bassa County) seeking Plenary’s indulgence to invite authorities of the NEC.

“We humbly call on Plenary to invite the National Elections Commission to explain to this August body the possibility of holding the 2023 legislative and presidential elections using the biometric system, as well as the controversial awarding of the procurement contract as being speculated,” Rep Goshua’s communication to Plenary.

According to Rep. Goshua, the growing controversies between the NEC and the National Public Procurement and Concession Commission over the NEC’s alleged breach of the PPCC Act in awarding the biometric contract to EKEMP was worrisome and needed the House’s attention.  

In addition, he said his request comes amid warning from experts that due to the lack of cellular network access in most rural communities in Liberia coupled with the short-time frame.

Following the reading of his communication, Plenary voted unanimously in favor of a motion filed by Rep. Dixon Wlawee Seboe to invite NEC’s Board of Commissioner next Tuesday. 

The NEC has come under scrutiny since it announced the provision of biometric voter registration card for the conduct of the crucial 2023 legislative and presidential elections.

The ongoing impasse between the NEC and the PPCC over the awarding of the contract for the biometric voter registration equipment has not helped either.

Madam Brown-Lansanah is being accused of favoring EKEMP, a controversial Chinese company, to introduce a biometric system of voting in NEC’s quest to do away with the Optical Manual Registration (OMR) system, which was used in previous elections.

Critics say the OMR system does not improve the accountability and transparency of electoral processes and is usually tainted by controversy and mistrust. 

In a biometric voting system, the voters are registered based on their unique physical characteristics like fingerprints and even facial recognition. Others have countered that while the system may eradicate double registration, it might not solve the issue of voter trucking, which is associated with vote-buying, a phenomenon that is becoming institutionalized in the country’s fragile democracy.