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Liberia continues push to introduce biometrics in next general elections

Thermal camera procurement investigation continues
Liberia continues push to introduce biometrics in next general elections

Plans by Liberia to introduce biometric technology in the country’s next general elections in 2023 have again been highlighted with the publication of a feasibility studies report on how the system can be put in place, according to Front Page Africa (FPA).

The National Elections Commission (NEC) long indicated its intensions to introduce the Biometric Voter Registration system (BVR) before the 2023 polls, but there have been disagreements over which body is better placed to manage the biometric database.

Speaking at the launch of the feasibility studies report recently, NEC Chairperson Davidetta Browne Lansanah expressed gratitude to all partners who contributed to its realization and reiterated the electoral body’s determination to resort to every means possible which can guarantee free, fair and credible elections, FPA notes.

Other speakers at the ceremony such as Internal Affairs Minister Varney A. Sirleaf and the House Chair of the Committee on Elections and Inauguration Matthew Zaza also reiterated their support for the introduction of the BVR.

The lawmaker particularly echoed the willingness of Parliament to ensure the passage of NEC’s proposed budget for the successful implementation of the system.

Representatives of foreign partner organizations who attended the report launching ceremony also pledged their support for the BVR initiative, FPA mentions.

The move to introduce the BVR by Liberia has been received with acclaim, but there have been institutional bickering in the country about how to go about the process.

Details on facial recognition thermometers saga emerge

Liberia’s Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) says it was not aware of the payments made by the NEC to rent 20 facial recognition thermometers during by-elections in the country recently.

FPA recalls that a scandal came to the fore when the thermometers were rented for fees far higher than the actual cost price of the equipment. According to reports, each unit of the contactless biometric thermometers costs at most US$1,300, but each of them was rented for the sum of $9,166.

Concerns were further raised by the fact that the contract was outsourced to an enterprise whose owner has connections to the NEC Chairperson.

There has been an investigation by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACCC) since the lid was blown off the matter.

FPA also quotes anonymous sources as saying the NEC Chairperson admitted the owner of the company from which the thermometers were rented is her brother, but denied accusations that the PPCC was not aware of the deal.

Meanwhile, Daily Observer in its report on the development quotes the letter sent by the PPCC to LACC, saying it was not duly informed of the thermometer rental affair.

“The PPCC states that there was neither 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,” a part of the letter reads.

LACC says it is pursuing its investigation on the issue and the results will be made public at the end of the process.

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