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Sierra Leone seeks supplier of biometric voter kits and system ahead of 2023 elections

Sierra Leone seeks supplier of biometric voter kits and system ahead of 2023 elections

The National Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone has launched a tender for the design, installation and maintenance of a biometric voter identification system to update its electoral roll ahead of the 2023 general election, according to a tender document seen by Biometric Update. 2,000 kits are required by the tender which closes on 14 March 2022 for registration to take place later in the year.

The West African nation introduced its first biometric voter scheme in 2012, and another for the 2018 elections. Smartmatic (which a year ago won a similar bid for Albania after being the sole bidder) provided 3,800 kits and 266 spares in that US$13 million deal. The general election achieved an 84 percent turnout in the first round.

But both the 2012 and 2018 elections were marred by allegations of fraud. While in 2012, the systems detected fraud attempts in voter registration, ten percent of votes cast were set aside at one point due to allegations of fraud and ballot stuffing. The situation was worse in the more violent 2018 elections when the High Court placed an injunction to halt the electoral commission from proceeding with the presidential runoff due to claims of fraud and police harassment of commission staff. The police said they were investigating 200 cases of alleged fraud. The second round was subsequently allowed to go ahead.

Third time around: 2,000 fingerprint readers, no vendor lock-in

“Technologies have been used during General Elections and by-elections and the Commission is desirous to put in place a more robust and secured technology with a view of addressing the emerging issues and experiences of the 2017 General Elections [sic] as well as put in place a support and maintenance plan in order to ensure the serviceability, reliability, and availability of the election technology,” states the tender document.

To achieve this, the National Election Commission (NEC) has put up for tender to lots. Lot 1 requires 2,000 fingerprint scanners – half the number used in 2018 – and Biometric Voter Identification (BVI) software with Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) functionality. The system needs to be able to read templates extracted from the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA). It should include a desktop application with integrations for the fingerprint scanners and HD cameras. Bidding requires a US$50,000 bid security.

Lot 2 is for the rest of the equipment: 2,000 laptops (15inch touchscreens with colorful, backlit keyboards) and cases, 2,000 flash drives, 500 external hard drives and software, servers and switches. This lot requires a $315,000 bid security.

There must be no vendor lock-in, goods should have a warranty of at least 12 months and undergo testing ahead of use.

Desktop and web applications are required for the system to input and search data, identify and authenticate voters via fingerprint, manage Central Data Consolidation and processing, generate voter lists, issue and track voter ID cards. The winner must also extract and upload to all 2,000 laptops the NCRA electoral roll.

If a voter’s details need to be edited, that voter’s biometrics are needed to unlock the record.

The selected bidder must include data de/encryption for the centralized system and devise a way to assign voters to polling stations, which are capped at 400 voters each.

The winner must also train staff from NEC management through to system users under deployment in registration exercises.

Experienced bidders only

The NEC stipulates not only that bidders meet certain technical experience requirements, but business size.

Up to ten points are available in the technical assessment for “Experience in the Use of Biometric Systems (Converting Fingerprint Images to Fingerprint Template and vice versa, use of facial biometrics or multi modal biometrics).” (Although ten points are also available for an audio-visual presentation of one’s systems provided on DVD.)

Bidders will need to have serviced at least two similar contracts in the past two years with a value of a least $50,000 for Lot 1 and $250,000 for Lot 2. They must also have a minimum average turnover of $100,000 for Lot 1 and $10 million for Lot 2.

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