Liberia: PPCC Rejects Ekemp

-Asks NEC to review and elect from remaining bidders

The Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) has rejected National Elections Commission’s (NEC) request for a “no objection” to award Ekemp’s joint venture contract for the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) process here.

NEC on October 19, 2022, wrote PPCC seeking approval to award the joint venture of Ekemp/Palm Insurance/ INITS contract for the supply and delivery of BVR equipment, software and materials for the 2023 presidential and legislative elections.

But PPCC wrote back on Friday, October 21, that it cannot render “no objection” to NEC’s request urging the election house to revert to the remaining bidders and select a company that would be most suitable.

“That the PPCC cannot render “no objection” for NEC to award contract to Ekemp/Palm Insurance /INITS (JV),” PPCC noted in its letter dated October 21, 2022.

“That the NEC should immediately revert to expeditiously review the remaining companies and select a company that would be most suitable for the supply of Biometric Voter Registration Equipment, Software and Materials for the 2023 presidential and legislative elections and subsequently exercise procedures under PPCA Section 31 as required,” the PPCC added.

This is the second rejection of NEC’s request by the PPCC in less than two months to render a “no objection” in its effort to contract a company ahead of the BVR process here as the election timetable draws closer.

It could be recalled that on September 9, 2022, PPCC wrote NEC demanding the latter to reinvite bidders to do a re-demonstration of the biometric enrolment and deduplication process and that such exercise be video recorded.

PPCC made the request after NEC forwarded to it on September 2, 2022, the joint venture of Ekemp as the presumed winner of its July 29 bid, which was completed on August 26 and signed by members of the bid panel.

On October 19, NEC submitted supplementary documents to the PPCC which included a cover letter, re-evaluation report, USB stick containing video recordings and PowerPoint presentations of re-demonstration by bidders, procurement committee minutes and other related documents as demanded on September 9.

Cause for second rejection

PPCC noted that per the NEC re-evaluation report, vendors were required during the re-demonstration process to perform data entry for a potential registrant, print PVC Cards on the spot, conduct reduplication and display activities on the screen for panel members and observers to view.

However, PPCC explained that during reviews of the video recording submitted by NEC and NEC’s own re-evaluation report showed malfunctioning of Ekemp’s equipment that is used for printing a key performance instrument (the PVC card). Ekemp did not print the PVC card on the spot as was required and did not print within the NEC time allotted. PPCC also noted that NEC accepted Ekemp’s late printing to form part of the evaluation.

PPC also frowned on the recommendation made on Ekemp’s financial capabilities, saying it does not support Ekemp’s capacity to prefinance as declared.

Therefore, PPCC insists that the inability Ekemp joint venture group to print the PVC card on spot as required by NEC and within time showed uncertainty on the usage of its equipment and raises doubts on the effective workability for the issuance of a printed PVC card to a registrant during the voter registration period.

The procurement house continued that a material failure in the functionality of a bidder’s Biometric Equipment that is required to print a registrant on spot must be taken into serious consideration by NEC for such could be a potential high risk for the upcoming first BVR for Liberia.

PPCC further that NEC should not have even considered Ekemp as the most responsive bidder due to its failure to print the PVC card on spot.

Ekemp’s failure explained

The Ekemp joint venture on October 7, wrote NEC explaining the cause for the delay in demonstrating the printing of its PVC card on spot, saying it was in the process of printing when one of the panelists ask that the printing should be projected on the screen for all to see.

Ekemp argued the process of migrating the demonstration caused the delay in printing. While NEC bid panelists were in the process of reviewing Ekemp’s complaint of being the only bidder to have been subjected to such treatment, Ekemp to the matter before the Supreme Court.

EKEMP had filed a prohibition against the NEC evaluation panel for the unwarranted interruption. Something which sources say the NEC evaluation panel admitted to but that it was done in good faith.

They further noted that EKEMP completed the printing process outside of the allotted time, but as per the court action filed by EKEMP, the cards were accepted to form part of the report.

The Supreme Court in a conference ruling noted that the fact that Ekemp did complete the enrolment process and printing of cards during the said re-demonstration, its performance be accepted by NEC and form part of the Bid Evaluation Panel’s evaluation.

However, the PPCC rejection failed to mention the Supreme Court’s intervention. This paper gathered that the committee also observed that not only the Software that is customized to NEC needs but also the equipment (tablet) is also designed to satisfy the full requirement in the bid document (a tablet with two fingerprint scanners).

LEON’s observation

The Liberia Elections Observation Network (LEON) on the NEC, PPCC and the Requirement for Documentation for Bid Processes noted: “As stated herein earlier, the basis of this second tender presentation was because of the PPCC’s request that NEC furnishes it with additional documentation including video evidence of presentations supporting NEC’s award to Ekemp International. Whilst the PPCA at section 43(8) gives the PPCC the authority to inspect the records and documents maintained by procuring entities, the Act is unclear as to whether the PPCC on its own and without a third-party’s complaint, can outrightly reject an Entity’s no objection request based on “insufficient documentation,” more specifically “video documentation.”

LEON proposes that in the future, and to avoid opening procuring entities such as NEC up to court processes by dissatisfied bidders, the PPCC and procuring entities sit on agreeable frameworks of documentation for competitive bidding processes prior to publication of tenders especially those of the international competitive kind considering the sums and technical expertise involved.

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