By-Aminata S. Kromah, Legislative Correspondent
Capitol Hill, Monrovia
February 8, 2023-The first process of ensuring the full participation of Liberians under the constitutional, which is the voters’ registration, appears to be limbo pending the company’s refusal to pre finance the equipment.
Authorities of the National Elections Commission earlier stated that this year’s voters registration will be biometric in order to counter double registration across the country. The process has been welcomed and rejected in some quarters based on the unavailability and fluctuation of GSM network to store data throughout the country.
LAXTON, a group hired to provide the equipment for the smooth operation of the biometric VR process has categorically claimed that it is unable to pre-finance the purchase of biometric equipment. This, the NEC Chairperson Davidetta Brown-Lassanah, might further delayed the VR if the government does not provide the funding.
Advantages of biometric voter registration include prevention of multiple voter registrations; accuracy of information collected and creation of voter identification for each voter. The biometric system would help to better secure the NEC voter roll and the integrity of the elections process: voter registration, voter verification, and the transmission of results among others.
It can be recalled that following the selection of Laxton Group for the provision of goods and services for the Voter Registration Exercise, there was an outstanding balance amount to be paid by the government to begin the process.
Speaking Tuesday February 7, 2023 when she appeared before the Plenary of the House of Representatives, NEC boss Brown-Lassanah warned that if the balance payment is not made available, the VR process could be delay, something that could harm the entire electoral process. “We have received 14 million in both US and Liberian dollars and there is a deficit of US$4.5 million, It’s critical at its stance now because according to our contract, we have to provide a letter of credit to the bank for the Laxton Group, If the balance money is not received in few days by the group, the delivery of biometric equipment to Liberia will be stalled and if it is stalled it means that there is a potential to push forward the voter registration exercise”, NEC boss Hon. Davidetta Brown Lassanah noted.
This is the NEC’s first ever trail of a biometric system for elections but other countries have had an experience of high-tech. Countries including Nigeria, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo already have adopted the finger-print scanning technology to help prevent electoral fraud unlike Liberia.
Meanwhile, The NEC Chairperson disclosed that there will be no biometric voting during the 2023 general and presidential elections; instead, the manual voting system as usual.
Lessons learned from previous/past elections on electoral fraud ranging from double registration to data removal from the system have forced the Elections commission to test a new system (biometric) from its optical manual registration (OMR) system in order to curtail electoral malfeasance.
Earlier, NEC requested the government to provide US$4.5 million to the vendor to bring in the materials for the process. The payment terms states that 50% should be made available to the winner of the bid after the completion of the voter registration exercise; 25% after the exhibition, and 25% after the elections. These requirements were the detailed payment terms as indicated by NEC in their tender.
Providing further clarity on Nationality for VR, Madam Davidetta Brown Lansanah indicated individuals will be required to prove their citizenship by providing National ID card, passport or being recognize by elders of the communities in which the registration process is taking place.
Madam Lansanah assured members of the House of Representatives that she would notify the Plenary on more issues relating to the NEC within three days.
NEC has earmarked February 20, 2023 as the official launch for Civic Voters Education for Voter’s registration.