MONROVIA – The ensuing saga over the supplies for the biometric materials for the voter roll and voter ID for the 2023 elections may delay the elections if not resolved speedily.
Ekemp International, the Chinese company that was previously selected by the National Elections Commission (NEC) and submitted to the PPCC under a request for ‘no objection’ to authorize them to supply the biometric materials has filed a prohibition on the biometric process.
The petition for a writ of prohibition was filed before Justice in Chambers Associate Justice Yussif Kabbah.
Their latest action comes after its poor performance in the re-demonstration of their enrolment and deduplication processes as ordered by the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC).
It is not clear how long the court process may drag but if their request for the prohibition is granted, the NEC would have to halt everything relating to the award of the contract for the supplies of biometric materials.
“It’s a petition for the Writ of Prohibition. It is a complaint against the process and the parties, I mean their representation and ours appeared before his Honor, Justice Kabba this morning at 10:30 a.m. for a conference,” the Daily Observer quoted the legal advisor of the NEC, Cllr. Teage Jalloh.
He also said in the interview with the Daily Observer that “We respect the law. Even though EKEMP filed a complaint earlier before us and to be precise, against us here at NEC as the panel of the bidding process and we were yet to look into their concerns, they have proceeded to the highest court in the land. Therefore, we have nothing to do further until we hear from the court.”
The NEC had been somewhat opposed to the PPCC’s recommendation for a re-demonstration by the participants of the bid.
Earlier in its defense for the selection of EKEMP and being opposed to the mandated re-demonstration, the NEC raised a litany of issues with the PPCC over its refusal to grant the no objection request for EKEMP and its partners to proceed with the supplies of the biometric materials.
In its request, the NEC stated that they had chosen EKEMP which has a joint venture with INITS Limited and Palm Insurance Inc. because it was the “most responsive bidder in the international competitive bidding for the IFB No. NEC/VRPLE/ICB/001/2002.”
According to the NEC, the companies chosen are a combination of three companies, which pulled their resources together to win the bid. One of the three combined entities—Palm Insurance—is a Liberian-owned insurance company.
The PPCC, however, observed that Palm Insurance’s obligations as per joint venture are completely absent of the expertise, knowledge, and experience on the actual biometric services, but rather only to pre-finance. The NEC had requested bidders to be able to demonstrate the capacity to pre-finance.
The PPC further observed during its review of the financial statements of all parties combined in the joint venture showed that there is no financial prowess and adequacy to refinance the project. The PPCC further pointed to the risk of unresponsiveness of a bidder to a mandatory requirement and to the fact of the bidder’s proposal.
The PPCC requested the demonstration of the enrollment and the de-duplication process be done with a PowerPoint presentation and those demonstrations should also be video recorded.
Based on the PPPCC’s observation, the NEC is further contending it was only EKEMP and its partners’ financial standing that was singled out by the PPCC and whether that disqualifies them from the bid and if so, why should they be reinvited for re-evaluation and demonstration.
It can be recalled that EKEMP International, immediately after the evaluation process by the NEC, placed the logo of the NEC on its website as one of its clients. It, however, removed all ‘client’ logos from its website after this was reported by FrontPageAfrica.
The placement of the NEC’s logo on its website when they were yet to consummate any contract with the NEC led many to believe that the NEC had given them some level of assurance.
EKEMP Flopped the Redemonstration
The NEC had three objectives to achieve during the demonstration: the bidder must be able to detect multiple registrations immediately on the spot; the bidder must be able to issue a voter card on the spot, and the bidder must be able to demonstrate and effectively use everything that they specified in their tender document. Some of the companies had difficulties performing tasks that were important to NEC.
At the demonstration, Ekemp International, earlier preferred by the NEC for the contract could not print a card on the spot as required by the NEC, leaving many disappointed and raising eyebrows at the NEC over the first evaluation process.
However, the Joint Venture of EKEMP/INITS/Palm Insurance complained to the Bid Evaluation Panel of the National Elections Commission (NEC) and the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) that they were treated unfairly during the re-demonstration exercise.
EKEMP and partners, in an official complaint, said about a quarter of the time left allotted to them while demonstrating the enrollment process on the tablet, specifically at the point of printing the card, the evaluation panel interrupted and requested that the Joint Venture connect the tablet to the projector for the observers at the re-demonstration to see what was being displayed which took up some of the time allotted them, thereby, making it impossible for them to print out the ID card within the stipulated time.