Liberia: NEC, National Identification Registry Tussle Over Implementing Impending Biometric Voter Registration

Monrovia — As Liberia edges toward 2023, the year for its Presidential and Legislative Elections, debate over the implementation of its first biometric voter registration exercise between (BVR) the National Elections Commission (NEC) and the National Identification Registry (NIR) on who is best suited to implement the Biometric program have emerged.

The NEC is proposing US$24 dollars to do the Biometric for three million Liberians, while the NIR says it can do a similar project for just US$15 Million, nine million less than the amount proposed by the Election House.

The NIR claimed that it is best suited to print out the biometric voter registration card because it is already involved with producing the National ID card through, that is biometric.

The debate which has been lingering for some time now was accentuated on Wednesday when the heads of the two institutions appeared before the Senate Joint Committee on Autonomous Commission and Agencies and Ways, Means and Finance on Wednesday.

The NEC Chairperson, Madam Davidetta Browne-Lansanah told the committee members that because the NIR data has not been tested, it appears to be uncertified by the Government of Liberia.

"The NIR integration into the 2023 elections is not timely; especially that there is partial registration it has done which raises the question about whether we have a national registry. In my mind, a national registry would be something close to 95% coverage of the country. I am not sure the NIR is at that point," she said.

"The NIR data has not been tested. It appears to be uncertified by the government of Liberia. We think there is a need for more planning for this process to take place. We also think it is not expedient for the NIR to be integrated into the 2023 elections because the commission needs to focus on the elections and its processes as supposed to focusing on election and its processes."

Madam Browne Lansanah told the committPost Views: 3ee that because of the invalidation of the NIR data, there could arise credibility issues in the 2023 electoral process if the NEC agrees to work with data given them by the NIR.

In a counterargument, the Director of the NIR, Mr. Teah Nagbe, said his institution has been doing biometrics and has the capacity to do it better than the NEC. He requested that the NEC work with the NIR by taking the lead in the process of producing biometric voter registration cards.

He noted the NIR can providPost Views: 3e technical support to the NEC in biometrics since it will be its first time to do such voter registration.

"The NEC has not even seen a biometric machine. If you go to NEC and see a biometric that is working show it to me. What we run is a world-class biometric system," Nagbe sniped.

Last week, The Senate Joint Committees on Autonomous Commission and Agencies and Ways, Means, Finance, and Budget recommended to the Plenary of the Senate to request the NEC to re-program its US$91.9 million budget it earlier submitted for the conduct of 2023 Presidential and General Elections.

The recommendation is in honor of the Plenary's mandate to the Committee on Autonomous Commission and Agencies, chaired by Senator Henrique Tokpah of Bong County and that of the Ways, Means and Finance Committee chair by Senator Morris Saytumah of Bomi County to review the NEC budget and advice Plenary.

The Joint Committee, in its recommendations, called for the re-programming of the budget on priorities; and said due to the importance of the 2023 General and Presidential Elections, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning be made to pay to the NEC based on the re-programed budget as per priority.

The Joint Committee: "As a country, we do not have the financial capacity to do Biometric Voter Registration, the joint committee encourages the government of Liberia to negotiate, consult and seek help from our international Partners to do BVR is we agree to do it now."

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