By Kebba Secka
Officials of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) on Tuesday 19th January, 2021 revealed to the National Assembly Select Committee on Lands, Regional Affairs and Ombudsman, that the Government is not cooperating in their bid to resolve the standoff between them and the Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA).
IEC appeared before the aforesaid select committee to advance reasons for deferral of the voter registration slated in January 14, 2021 and also outline some of the hurdles they are grappling with GPPA. IEC alleged that GPPA, Ministry of Finance and the Executive headed by Adama Barrow are not doing enough to resolve the standoff between them.
IEC Chairman, Alieu Momarr Njai, said the voter postponement was directly caused by the government’s failure to approve a letter of credit written to the Ministry of Finance to serve as guarantor for the Commission to acquire loan from Zenith Bank at an interest rate until the GPPA approves the procurement budget.
The Commission budgeted over one hundred and fifty three million dalasi (153, 000, 000.00) for procurement.
Commenting on the bidders, the Commission decided awarded the bidding contract for making on-the-spot voter registration to Electoral Service International, a Canadian company which is said to have offered one hundred and fifty one million, five hundred and ninety thousand two hundred and eighty-nine dakasi, sixty eighty bututs (151, 590, 289.68)- an amount less than the offer of Smart Business Group, Ekemp and Dermalog companies.
“On 20th of October, 2020, GPPA wrote to IEC citing section 12 (2) of the GPPA Act, 2018 that requires approval from GPPA for procurement. It stated that it cannot approve the recommendation of the IEC’S request unless the Term of Reference of responses, evaluation matrix and ranking of the bids evaluations were to be provided. On 27th October, IEC wrote to the Ministry of Finance to provide them the required funds (D153, 000, 000) to be able to conduct voter registration as scheduled,” said Sanbujang Njie, the CEO of the commission.
According to the officials, on 14th of October, 2020, the GPPA wrote to IEC two letters one of which suggested the reviewing of the IEC’s submission, while the other indicated that Dermalog Company was fully compliant since it responded to the term of references and the procurement.
On the 19th of October, IEC wrote back to the GPPA invoking section 43 (3) of the 1997 Constitution which states that the IEC must not be subjected to any control or direction by any authority, individuals or groups in exercise or discharge of its functions or decisions.
The Commission alleged that GPPA declined to take charge of the procurement activities even though the constitution that establishes IEC supersedes the procurement act that the authority relied on to place themselves as observers during the opening of bids by bidders.
The Commission also said they have engaged the GPPA in all their budget procurement plans for the electoral calendar 2021 to 2023 but GPPA has always been inconsistent in their dealings with them.
Chairman Alieu Mamour Njie told the committee that letters of correspondence between GPPA, Ministry of Finance and the Secretary General and Head of Civil Service serve as evidence to support their argument.
Recently, IEC announced the postponement of Gambian voter registration exercise which was scheduled to commence on the 14th of this month. The announcement raised concerns from Gambians both within and outside the country, leading many to ask about the state of preparedness of the IEC, the body responsible for conducting elections.
It’s for this reason that the aforesaid select committee decided to open an investigation into what really happened.
During the opening session, chairperson of the committee, Musa Amul Nyassi, reminded them about the importance of the meeting while urging them to bring out all the challenges faced by the Commission in conducting voter registration and conducting elections as per 2021-2023 calendar year.