“Biometric Procurement Process Completed” -NEC Boss says Next Stage Dependent on PPCC      

MONROVIA – Amid the apparent uncertainty hanging over the use of the biometric voters’ registration (BVR) process next year, the Chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC), Madam Davidetta Brown-Lassanah, says her Commission has finalized all what is required as per the request of the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission (PPCC) to complete the bidding process where five of the six bidders took part in both the first round and the second request for fresh presentation and re-demonstration;  and that what is required now is the response from the PPCC to determine the next stage of the process.

Speaking in an interview with media executives against the background of concerns being raised that the process has experienced a hitch and may be abandoned, Madam Brown Lassanah said NEC complied with all requests made that governed the fresh exercise which include video recording, re-evaluation and re-demonstration, noting that a supplementary report was submitted to the PPCC. She said the response from the integrity institution will determine what will be done with respect to the proposed voters’ registration project next year.

“I am pleased to announce that the procurement process with NEC with respect to the input to the PPCC, has been completed and submitted to the PPCC yesterday.

“You will recall that there has been back and forward of submission of the report to the PPCC and PPCC’s response to the NEC which led to the Commission through the Bid Panel to the Bidding Committee to implement what the PPCC asked us to do, some of which are to do a re-evaluation, re-demonstration with video recording and with power point presentation; and the other is the pre-finance issue”, she said.

While maintaining that the process was not a new one but just additional request for the first exercise which was concluded on October 7, 2022, she said her entity has submitted a supplementary report which was a review of the earlier report submitted to PPCC at the end of the first exercise and contained printed ID cards from all the bidders, all documents received from the bidders, especially the pre-finance documents on how bidders will undertake the project if they were successive.

When asked what will be the implications of the response from PPCC as it relates to the biometric project, Madam Brown-Lassanah said there will be two things involved if the PPCC accepts or rejects the “no objection” request recommended in the first report and reaffirmed in the supplementary report.

“So, our prevailing situation is the close pace of procurement. At this point we say we have made the supplementary report and submitted it to PPCC. If the PPCC approves, meaning that they give us a “no objection” answer, then it means that we have to recalibrate on the time that we will do the voters’ registration, adjusting the time to have the deliverables and we start the registration process.

“But if the PPCC says no, then several things will be done. What is going to happen is that we will come back to the procurement committee to tell the Board that from the report of the PPCC, they have cancelled the process with these companies”, she said.

The NEC boss further noted that cancellation of the process will put the situation in a difficult position such that even if another bidding process will be started, there is a high probability that the same set of vendors will come back in the fray, stating this is something that is not a likelihood and because of the time frame involved if PPCC’s decision leads to cancellation then the Board will meet to make a determination on whether to remain with the BVR option or go for another form of technology.

“If they say no, then there will be a new bidding process for a system where the Board of Commissioners (BOC), working with technicians, will choose which may not be BVR because of the many challenges we had with it.

“We may say, let us go digital where you have laptops and they are accustomed to some of the things we want to do and still do some capturing of information but may not be the overall result we want like capturing of fingerprints, facial identification, etc.,” she said.

Responding to a question regarding what could be the associated implication if the process was cancelled and a new process is being requested, the NEC Boss said it will not augur well with the timing because on the average, it will mean starting and completing will be around April next year and that could place a big risk on the entire voters’ registration and then adversely impact the entire electoral process.

She maintained that NEC did not recommend any name to PPCC after the second exercise where the request from PPCC was followed but rather the supplementary report reaffirmed what was previously recommended in favor of EKEMP as the preferred bidder having met all the requirements spelled out in the bid document, key among which was that bidders should demonstrate financial capability and capacity to pre-finance the transaction.

She also made a clarification about the report that EKEMP flopped during the second exercise yet it was still recommended.

“I was not part of the process because I decided to stay out of the whole exercise and allow the panel to handle everything and make their recommendation to us. I was told that all the vendors did not do their re-demonstration on the larger screen but while EKEMP was re-demonstrating one of the panelists asked to elevate it to a larger platform and so they have to stop the first process which was almost to the point of printing the ID Card.

“I am told they had to configure the system to take the second request and that disrupted the whole process and it took some time before the system could be restarted. By that time, I am told many observers had left but at the end of the day, the ID card was finally printed and presented to the panel. So, it was not a flop because the system still came back and printed the ID card which was important”, she said.

Responding to a question regarding why EKEMP was still recommended after it was learnt that the company had even taken NEC to court in protest for disrupting its presentation, Madam Lassanah said the company did not protest but had filed its concerns with the panel for the disruption and while the panel was in the process of addressing the issue, the company filed for a prohibition at the Supreme Court against NEC.

“So, while the panel was looking at their concerns, they filed a complaint to the Supreme Court and when the court called for a conference, it was decided that since the ID card was printed it should be construed as the process was completed and must be incorporated as such in the supplementary report which we did and submitted to the PPCC and awaiting the results”, she said.

Madam Brown Lassanah emphatically maintained at the end of the interview that the entire procurement process was done successfully and conformed with all the requirements as per the request from PPCC.

“The Commission has done everything possible to adhere to the rules governing procurement because the documentation is here. The procurement unit with three staff including those who were on the panel have legal expertise, financial expertise, and technical expertise. These people were used to arrive at the decision that was eventually presented to PPCC.

“In that decision, it is not one person that decides, not the chairperson of the procurement that decides. We vote, the procurement members vote, just like the panel members vote on the specificity of what is before them in order to come up with a verdict”, she concluded to support the premise that the proper process was carried out.

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