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Liberia’s elections biometrics bid process questioned, commission doubted

Political row deepens with Ekemp app discovery
Categories Biometrics News  |  Elections  |  ID for All
Liberia’s elections biometrics bid process questioned, commission doubted

Liberia‘s biometric voter ID saga continues with the nation’s Liberty Party, headed by Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, petitioning for the chair of the National Elections Commission, Davidetta Browne-Lansanah, to step down over alleged irregularities in biometric ID contract decisions.

The circulating petition, spotted by the Daily Observer, says that Browne-Lansanah has proven to be unworthy of public trust and should leave the post to make place for the conduct of free, fair, and transparent presidential elections in 2023.

In particular, the party head accuses her of partisanship, interference in intra-party affairs and conflicts of interest.

The petition cites Browne-Lansanah’s reported role in procuring 20 thermometers at $9,166 each in 2021 when each typically is valued at $500.

In fact, her fitness to be involved in procuring the biometric voter registration materials at all is questioned, according to new publication FrontPageAfrica.

The Liberty Party petition claims that biometric voter registration hardware should instead be procured by Liberia’s international partner, the United National Development Programme, which holds the related software to minimize tampering.

The controversy about the biometric voter registration process in Liberia runs deeper, however, with Browne-Lansanah also being summoned to the Plenary of the House of Representatives last week, FrontPageAfrica reports separately.

Representative Thomas Goshua initiated the summons based on the controversies between the elections commission and the National Public Procurement and Concession Commission (NPCC) over the NEC’s alleged breach of the PPCC Act in awarding the $12 million biometric contract to Chinese secure-ID hardware and software maker Ekemp.

At deadline, the elections commission chair stands by her statement that the contract for biometric registration has not been given out to any company following the Ekemp controversy.

According to an investigation by FrontPageAfrica, however, Ekemp claimed to be favored by the commission chair, and the company even developed a pre-registration app in anticipation of Liberian elections next October.

An elections commission spokesperson declined to comment on why the company built the preregistration software when it apparently did not have a contract.

Alexander Cummings, the political leader of the Alternative National Congress and standard bearer of the Collaborating Political Party, said the events surrounding biometric upgrades to the nation’s elections infrastructure threaten the reputation of the vote.

“We are alarmed about the growing perception of incompetence and corruption surrounding the contract of a vendor for the biometric voter registration,” he said at a news conference Monday at Liberty Party headquarters, as heard by FrontPageAfrica.

Moreover, Cummings called on the elections commission to seek a transparent public procurement process seeking contractors “from other democratic countries.”

His worries are shared by some voters, according to an analysis by FrontPageAfrica, which indicates that voters lack of awareness, fear conflict, and distrust the procurement process itself.

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