Capitol Hill, Monrovia – As Liberia draws closer to 2023, the year of its presidential and legislative elections, debate on the implementation of its first biometric voter registration exercise between (BVR) the National Election Commission (NEC) and the National Register Identification (NIR) on who is best suited to implement the biometric program have emerged.
The NEC is offering US $ 24 to do biometrics 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 Electoral Chamber.
The NIR claimed that it was better to print the biometric voter card as it is already involved in the production of the national identity card, i.e. biometric.
The debate that has dragged on for some time was accentuated Wednesday when the heads of the two institutions appeared Wednesday before the Senate joint committee on the Autonomous Commission and the agencies and ways, means and finances.
NEC President Ms Davidetta Browne-Lansanah told committee members that because the NIR data has not been tested, it appears not to be certified by the government of Liberia.
âThe inclusion of the NIR in the 2023 elections is not timely; especially since there is a partial registration that he did, which raises the question of whether we have a national register. In my opinion, a national registry would cover almost 95% of the country. I’m not sure NIR is at this point, âshe said.
âThe NIR data has not been tested. It appears to be uncertified by the government of Liberia. We believe there is a need to further plan this process. We also believe that it is not timely for the NIR to be incorporated into the 2023 elections, as the commission needs to focus on the elections and its processes, when it is supposed to focus on the elections and their processes.
Ms. Browne Lansanah told the committee that due to the invalidation of the NIR data, credibility issues could arise in the 2023 electoral process if the NEC agrees to work with the data provided by the NIR.
In a counter-argument, the director of the NIR, Mr. Teah Nagbe, said his institution does biometrics and has the capacity to do it better than the NEC. He requested that the NEC work with the NIR in taking the lead in the process of producing biometric voter registration cards.
He noted that the NIR can provide technical support to the NEC on biometrics since this will be the first time that it has conducted such voter registration.
âThe NEC hasn’t even seen a biometric machine. If you go to the NEC and see a biometrics that works, show it to me. What we manage is a world class biometric system, âNagbe said.
Last week, the Senate Joint Committees on Autonomous Commission and Agencies and Ways, Means, Finances and Budget recommended to the Senate plenary to ask the NEC to reprogram its $ 91.9 million budget that it had previously submitted for the conduct of the 2023 presidential and general elections.
The recommendation is in honor of the Plenary’s tenure on the Autonomous Commission and Agencies Committee, chaired by Senator Henrique Tokpah of Bong County and that of the Chairman of the Ways, Means and Finance Committee by Senator Morris Saytumah of Bomi County to review the budget of the NEC and Council Plenary.
The Joint Committee, in its recommendations, called for the reprogramming of the budget on priorities; and said that due to the importance of the 2023 general and presidential elections, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning should pay the NEC on the basis of the rescheduled budget according to the priority.
The Joint Committee: âAs a country, we do not have the financial capacity to conduct biometric voter registration, the Joint Committee encourages the Government of Liberia to negotiate, consult and seek assistance from our international partners to perform the BVR if we agree to do so now. “