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Ekemp’s Liberian biometric voter card contract rejected by review; verbal sparring ensues

Ekemp’s Liberian biometric voter card contract rejected by review; verbal sparring ensues
 

The back-and-forth continues over the procurement of biometric equipment and software to be used in Liberia’s elections, according to the Liberian Observer.

Controversy has surrounded the selection of Ekemp, a Chinese firm, as the supplier for voter ID cards and other biometric election materials. Now, Liberia’s Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) has rejected the Ekemp contract — drawing a response from the National Elections Commission (NEC), who says it followed all regulations in awarding the contract to “the most responsive bidder.”

The PPCC’s concerns focus on protocol in the evaluation and selection process, and on Ekemp’s capacity to deliver an extensive list of materials and services, which includes manufacture, installation and training for biometric voter registration kits. In a letter to the NEC dated September 9 and excerpted on Front Page Africa Online, Jargbe Roseline Nagbe Kowo, the executive director of the PPCC, wrote that “a very key role of the Commission under its prior review mandates is to authenticate that the bidding processes conducted are done in line with applicable procedures, fairly, transparently; and that bidders are treated equitably in terms of review and scrutiny.” Citing a lack of required documentation in Ekemp’s bid, the PPCC claimed the NEC’s evaluation process failed to meet those standards.

The NEC, however, is not ready to concede. In her own ten-page letter responding to the PPCC, NEC Chairperson Madam Davidetta Browne-Lansanah noted that the contract was in fact awarded to a tripartite joint venture between Ekemp, the Nigerian company INITS Limited, and Palm Enterprises, which is Liberian-owned. She pointed out that other applicant firms had demanded more and offered less. And to PPCC’s request for video footage of Ekemp’s presentation, she responded with a shrug: “no video recording was done.”

The NEC has formally asked the PPCC to reconsider their decision and let the contract go ahead. “Fairness to all bidders,” wrote Browne-Lansanah with a hint of salt, “requires the NEC and the PPCC to act on the actual facts of the procurement process.”

Browne-Lansanah’s administration of procurement processes was called into question after a contract to rent facial recognition-powered thermal cameras was awarded at a shockingly inflated price.

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