By Morrison O.G Sayon
The National Elections Commission (NEC) has assured the public that while it awaits the approval of the December 16, 2014 date for the holding of the Mid-term Elections, the Commission is preparing for the holding of the election throughout the country.Presenting the current status of the Special Senatorial Election in the country, NEC’s Boss, Jerome Korkoya said consistent with Article 46 of the Liberian Constitution and provisions of the New Elections Law of 1986, the Commission is mandated to conduct a Special Senatorial Election to replace fifty percent of the membership of the Liberian Senate elected in the first category during the 2005 General Elections.
Chairman Korkoya said due to the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus disease in the country, the Commission was constrained to propose to the Government of Liberia the postponement of that date to a later date.
He said a Joint Resolution adopted by the National Legislature and approved by the President mandated the Commission to hold consultations with all stakeholders of the electoral process in selecting a new date subject to Legislative approval and that the election be held no later than December 20, 2014.
“Pursuant to the Joint Resolution, the Commission concluded consultations with stakeholders including, political parties, our international partners, students and youth groups, religious groups, the media, civil society organizations, the National Traditional Council of Liberia, elders and citizens across the fifteen (15) counties, health authorities from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” Chairman Kokoya added.
He said at the close of those consultations, the stakeholders and others consulted proposed, and the Commission concurred, that the new date to hold the Special Senatorial Election be December 16, 2014. “The Stakeholders further recommended that the timeline for the conduct of the election be expanded to include an alternative plan whereby in the case of an upsurge of the Ebola Virus Disease in a particular county/counties, election in such county/counties should be deferred and treated as a By-Election under the provision of Article 37 of the Liberian Constitution,” he furthered.
He said NEC is proceeding with all necessary preparations that will lead to the holding of the election, including the assessment of voting precincts across the country, recruitment and training of temporary election personnel, finalization of arrangement for the printing of ballots and other electoral materials.
Meanwhile, Cllr. Korkaya has rubbished allegation made against the NEC by the former Director of Finance, Joseph Duwana as rubbish describing him as an arrogant gentleman.
Recently, the Director of Finance and Budget at the NEC, Joseph Duwana resigned from his post while in the United States after receiving money for medical leave in the United States. In his letter of resignation dated November 3, 2014, Mr. Duwana accused the NEC of massive financial malpractices at the Commission and accused the Chairman of the NEC of practising dictatorship at the entity.
Addressing a news conference over the weekend, the Chairman of the National Elections Commission (NEC), Jerome Korkoya described Duwana as an arrogant gentleman who has the spirit of undermining others.
Chairman Korkaya said after receiving money from the Commission for a medical leave in the United States Mr. Duwana wrote the Commission that he was quarantined by his doctors in the US for 21 days and therefore, could not return to Liberia on time.
Cllr. Korkoya said though Mr. Duwana has spent just a year at the NEC, he requested for leave three times. He said Mr. Duwana before leaving for the States asked for a salary advance and money for medical leave but without returning; he overstayed in the US but surprisingly sent a letter of resignation to the Commission alleging financial malpractices.
The NEC Chairman described Duwana’s claims as false and misleading and are only intended to undermine the credibility of the Commission.
“The NEC is conscious of the fact that accountability is a guiding principle in all Electoral Management Bodies around the world. The NEC is no exception to this reality. The NEC therefore wishes to state that it did not overstate or inflate the cost of materials and equipment intended for the Special Senatorial Election in any form or manner as is being alleged by Mr. Duwana,” Cllr. Korkoya said.
He added that the procurement and purchase of all materials and equipment intended for the election were, and are being done within strict adherence to the regulations of the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission (PPCC) adding that the procurement processes already completed were validated by the Ministries of Justice and Finance, where necessary before implementation.
“We also want to clarify that all contributions made by donors towards the election are captured in the election budget and disclosed to the government. Hence, the double payment claim made by Mr. Duwana is farfetched,” the chairman told newsmen in Monrovia on Friday.
He then added, “One of the many examples of falsehood and misinformation contained in the assertions made by Mr. Duwana, is his claim that the contract for the procurement of Election Kits was awarded to GBK Motors, a company that is exclusively involved in the dealership of vehicles in Liberia. Contrary to this misleading information, the contract for the procurement of the election kits was instead awarded to Inkript, a company based in Lebanon and specialized in the production of election kits.”
“In the spirit of transparency, we hereby declare in this public manner that the records and books of the Commission remain opened to any examination by any appropriate agency or agencies of government, partners and other stakeholders.It is important to also clarify in this public manner that Mr. Duwana has never been the head of the Finance Section at the Commission as is being implied. The Finance section is headed by a Chief Financial Officer (CFO), in person of Mr.Thomas M. Duoe, CPA,” Cllr. Korkaya further clarified.
He noted that Mr. Duwana’s action is a clever attempt to divert administrative actions that were awaiting him upon his return from the United States adding, “Because of the gravity the Commission attaches to the falsehood being spread by Mr. Duwana, we hereby call on the government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Justice, to initiate any available and applicable legal process that will ensure that Mr. Duwana, the accuser, returns to Liberia from the United States, where he currently resides, to substantiate his claims against the Commission by providing the necessary evidence which he claims to have in his possession in order to afford the Commission the opportunity to more specifically respond to these allegations.”
At the same time, NEC has assured the government and people of Liberia, political parties, civil society, donor partners and all relevant stakeholders that it remains committed to accountability, professionalism, transparency and free, fair and credible elections.