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Laxton says Liberia biometric voter registration on track despite election chair comments

Laxton says Liberia biometric voter registration on track despite election chair comments

A voter registration exercise in Liberia scheduled to begin on 20 March may not go ahead if the National Elections Commission (NEC) fails to get US$4.5 million in funding assistance from the government, according to the Commission’s chairperson.

The amount of money in question has to be paid to the provider of the biometric voter registration system Laxton Group to enable it ship in some of the equipment needed for the exercise, according to a report by Front Page Africa (FPA). The report is based on comments by NEC Chairperson Davidetta Browne Lansanah, the context of which is not described in the article.

The publication claims that the support being solicited from government by the NEC is to make up for a funding gap as Laxton is reportedly unable to pre-finance the execution of the contract as prescribed in the bid document.

A Laxton representative, however, tells Biometric Update that the company “has fully prefinanced this entire project.”

The NEC has made no official statement on the matter.

Laxton was awarded the contract late last year after a long streak of back and forth in the bid selection process.

FPA cites a section of the tender document which mentions that successful bidders will be able to receive full payment only at the end of the election process, which should be any time after October this year. The general elections are planned for October 10.

Per the document, the contractor has to receive 50 percent of the payment after the voter registration exercise, 25 percent after an exhibition process, and the remaining 25 percent at the end of the electoral process.

Browne Lansanah is quoted by FPA as saying that already, the body has received about $14 million in US and Liberian dollars from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, but the remaining US$4.5 million for this phase of the payment is badly needed for the contractor to be able to get all the equipment in place.

The total cost of the contract is reported to be US$12 million.

The challenges notwithstanding, Lansanah has assured Liberians of the NEC’s commitment in overseeing a smooth and credible electoral process. She has also urged national and international partners to accompany them in that process.

The chairperson has been mired in her own credibility scandal, even before being accused by another NEC member of acting unilaterally, and concerns around the contract have taken on a political undertone.

As the NEC awaits the full shipment of the required number of biometric devices, it has however undertaken a pilot to test the functionality of the biometric voter registration system using the devices which have already been supplied.

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