Authorities of the National Elections Commission (NEC) appear to be entrenched in their defiance of the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC), which has warned the electoral body against awarding a contract for the procurement of election materials for the December 8 elections to a little known company that lacks the track record for elections procurement.
The NEC decision, which has allegedly already been communicated to partners including the UNDP, comes at a time when the electoral body has yet to satisfy the PPCC's requirements for an approved vendor to procure materials for the pending midterm Senatorial and Representative by-elections, as well as the National Referendum.
"I will tell you the truth, NEC has set November 11 to bring into the country elections materials even though they have not done what PPCC has asked them to do. Anyway, this is what they are about to do," a source with knowledge of the issue said.
The source further explained that authorities of NEC have gone to the extent of securing payment from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to import elections materials, including materials for the national referendum, while the issue with PPCC has not been resolved.
However, the source added that while NEC has been able to get financing from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, they have not yet been able to get the Justice Minister, Frank Musa Dean, who by law is required to sign before major government agencies procure materials, mainly those that bother on security as in the case of NEC.
Unique Enterprise, the NEC's controversial "preferred vendor" is a company that is known to have a history in the import and sale of electronics, not the procurement of elections materials.
Ahead of the move, sources said that NEC Chairperson Davidetta Brown Lansanah reiterates her boastful claims that the preferred company is qualified and meets all of the required measures to produce materials for elections.
Madam Lansanah is on record for accusing the PPCC of stalling the December 8 electoral processes as well as the national referendum by not granting NEC a no objection to its preferred company to produce elections materials.
But PPCC boss Roseline Kowoe denied the accusation and instead accused the NEC boss of lying to the public. Madam Kowoe said then that the NEC was proceeding wrongly by awarding a major contract on elections, to a company with no history of ever procuring elections materials for any country.
The Press and Public Affairs Director at PPCC, Nathan Bengu, told the Daily Observer yesterday that the entity has written NEC on two different occasions reaffirming its position, but NEC seems not to comply.
"We wrote two letters to the NEC and in each of them, we made our position clearly known that we cannot support or allow them to award the contract to Unique Enterprise. Our finding shows that Unique does not have the requisite qualification to produce materials for election," Bengu said.
According to him, if NEC goes ahead and procures elections materials through its "preferred vendor" without following its own criteria and the regulations of the PPCC, they will be held liable.
"I don't want to be exact in saying what the penalty would be, but we know that all of our laws have punitive measures and NEC is of no exception. We want them to do what is right, not what is wrong," he stressed.
Asked about speculations that PPCC has been allegedly arm-twisted and forced to yield to pressure from the Executive, through the Finance Ministry, Bengu said the Commission is independent of any influence and is not compelled to do anything against the laws of the country, including the Act that established the PPCC itself.
"People have many things to say but if you had followed my boss, Roseline Kowoe, over the weeks, you may come to know that she is persistent and consistent on our position. We have given NEC no go-ahead to do the wrong thing. That is our position and we stand by it," Bengu said.
When contacted, NEC Press and Public Affairs Director, Henry Flomo, could did not provide a detailed response due to limited information he claims to have on hand.
Flomo neither denied nor confirmed the claim that NEC is violating the law, but said in a text message: "I don't have information on that matter as yet," and told the Daily Observer to go ahead and publish its findings.
Several calls and a text message from this reporter to Mr. Cletus Nuah, special assistant to Samuel Tweah, Minister of Finance, in an attempt to get clarity from the Minister on the matter, went unanswered.
In the text message, the reporter asked Mr. Noah to confirm whether or not "information that the Ministry of Finance has given approval for the delivery of money to the NEC for elections materials, even though they are not following the PPCC regulations," is true. Grand Gedeh Electoral District #3 Representative, Alex Grant, who heads the committee on elections at the House of Representatives is on record or saying that the NEC chairperson, Davidetta Brown Lansanah is proceeding wrongly and she is not willing to listen to other people's advice.
David S. Menjor
David S. Menjor is a Liberian journalist whose work, mainly in the print media has given so much meaning to the world of balanced and credible mass communication. David is married and interestingly he is also knowledgeable in the area of education since he has received some primary teacher training from the Kakata Rural Teacher Training Institute (KRTTI). David, after leaving Radio Five, a broadcast media outlet, in 2016, he took on the challenge to venture into the print media affairs with the Dailly Observer Newspaper. Since then he has created his own enviable space. He is a student at the University of Liberia.