February 22, 2024

2023 Biometric Voters’ Registration suffers setback

Monrovia, Liberia-The National Elections Commission’s second offer for the company to create biometric voter registration identification cards for the 2023 presidential and legislative elections was rejected by the Public Procurement and Concession Commission, putting an end to the process. David-Etta Brown-Lansanah, the chair of the NEC, announced that the commission’s board of commissioners would soon evaluate the letter from the PPCC and decide how to proceed. At a significant press conference conducted at the NEC headquarters in Monrovia on Tuesday, Madam Brown-Lansanah disclosed the information.

The NEC Chairperson stated that after reviewing the PPCC’s letter, a decision regarding the next steps would be made, and the PPCC will be notified of those steps. She claims that contrary to what has been reported in some media outlets, the commission has not chosen a firm to create the biometric voter identification cards. The joint venture of EKEMP/INITS/Palm was selected as the most responsive bidder by the evaluation panel, according to the NEC chairperson, who also noted that the panel’s decision was unanimous. On August 26, 2022, the evaluation panel’s report and recommendation were presented to the NEC’s procurement committee, which has five members.

The joint venture between Professional Services Inc. and HID Global, as well as the joint venture between EKEMP/INITS/Palm, were the only ones to meet the pre-finance criterion, according to the initial report, according to Madam Lansanah.

The contract was awarded to Ekemp/Inits/Palm as the most responsive bidder, according to NEC, who claims that on August 31, 2022, the NEC sent the PPCC a letter asking a “letter of no objection” for the particular bidder.

“The original report shows that only Ekemp/Inits/Palm and ESI advanced to the final level of review. The NEC did not, and has not, awarded any contract to the recommended bidder or to any other bidders in this subject. The PPCC requested a rerun of the bidders’ presentations on the grounds that the prior demonstrations were not videotaped following many letter discussions between the PPCC and the NEC. The Procurement Act does not contain any provisions that mandate that presentations before assessment panels be recorded on video, thus the NEC requested the PPCC to name the exact section of the Act that does.”

The PPCC failed to cite any such provision and rested on the general claim of ensuring fairness to all bidders, even though no bidder had filed any complaint. 

“In furtherance of its request for a re-demonstration,”  Madam Lansanah indicated,  “the PPCC on September 27, 2022, sent the NEC a letter in which it stated the purpose of the requirement to submit a statement of financial position of companies is to ascertain as to whether the bidder actually has the capacity to pre-finance as declared.”

The PPCC also said, “ NEC should in its re-evaluation ascertain entity’s financial capacities through the facts of their financial statements submitted.” 

The additional report demonstrates that only Laxton Group and the partnership between Ekemp/INITS/Palm met the pre-finance criteria after applying the PPCC criterion that was previously mentioned. According to its own rules, the PPCC disqualified three of the five bidders.

This biometric voter registration initiative is valued at close to twelve million US dollars ($12,000,000.00), according to NEC Boss. Only Ekemp/INITS/Palm and Laxton have implemented a project of this value over the past two years, according to comparable audited revenue statements for each bidder.

“As stipulated in the standard bidding documents, Laxton did not deliver audited financial accounts for the most recent year (2021). Laxton does not submit audited financial accounts; it only released statements for the fiscal years 2020 and 2019. Laxton also stated a restriction on its capacity for pre-financing. Revenue for Electoral Services International in 2021 is projected to be $3,888,285 and $367,248 respectively.”

Madam Brown Lasannah pointed out that Waymark/Mwetana joint audited financial statements show that the project it has completed over the last two fiscal years is US$4,210,003.25 for 2021 and US$2,352,663.49 for 2020. According to their revenue positions, both businesses ESI and Waymark/Mwetana significantly underperform in terms of implementing the NEC biometric project. On the other hand, PSI/HID Global did not provide audited financial accounts for any of the joint venture’s partners.

The PPCC’s request for a re-demonstration, according to the NEC Chairperson, could not have been interpreted as a denial of the NEC’s August 31, 2022 request for a letter of no objection.

“If this were so, the process would have ended at that time, as the PPCC cannot by its interim statements limit one bidder at the same time request additional information from all bidders in form of a re-demonstration exercise.”

She claims that the PPCC instructed the NEC to “choose a company” from the remaining bidders after rejecting the NEC’s bidder-specific request for a letter of protest. The original and supplementary reports reveal that no bidder met all of the requirements outlined in the standard bidding documents and that only two bidders met the pre-finance standard established by the PPCC’s September 27, 2022, even if it is assumed but not agreed that the PPCC had the authority to “order” a procuring entity to make a choice after it has denied that entity’s bidder-specific request for no objection.

Reported by: Augustine Octavius

Contact: +231777463963

Email: augustineoctavius@gmail.com

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