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NEC clarifies US$182K Thermometer (AI device)

-“It’s an accountability tool”

The National Elections Commission (NEC), says the facial recognition device it has acquired is not just a thermometer, rather it is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) device to be used as an accountability tool.

NEC Chair, Madam Davidetta Brown Lansanah told the New Dawn in an exclusive interview Wednesday during a follow-up on the US182,000 rented thermometer story that the equipment is an AI device that actually collects data and is also used for electronic verification.

In its Monday, November 15, edition, the Daily Observer broke a story that the NEC has spent a total of US$182,320 to rent twenty pieces of the facial recognition system for the conduct of the just-ended by-elections in four counties.

But Madam Brown Lansanah told the New Dawn that NEC has the purview to decide any equipment that it wants to use for any of its processes; and that since the attention is on the electronic verification equipment, the decision was made to use that equipment for the training of temporary staff to conduct the by-elections.

“People know it to be a thermometer but it’s not just a thermometer, it’s artificial intelligence or you can also say it is a piece of verification equipment which has different features. For the purpose of the Commission, it was customized to be used during our training, and as an accountability tool with respect to the payment of temporary staff, because in the past we have paid them by bulk cash that we have to carry to the various counties. But again, we have to fall in line with the GAC (General Auditing Commission) rules and you know the trend, and now everybody is now paying by mobile money. Even with the mobile money from 2020 up to now, we are still verifying who the temporary staffs were. So this is why we are now verifying them during the training before the actual conduct of the by-election.”

The PPCC and the selection process

Displaying a file full of various documents to this paper, Madam Davidetta Brown Lansanah said the Commission followed all the legal processes as required by the Public Procurement and Concession Commission or PPCC.

“I can say to you all the documents in here which require and have to go through were followed. The PPCC gave us a letter of no rejection.  You can procure the equipment by itself maybe it will cost you US$1,200 or US$1000 something, I don’t know the cost. I never went on Amazon to check but once we got through with the process and the vendor was chosen, it was a package they provided to us, and part of that package was what people call a thermometer and the customized software that comes along with it.” The NEC boss said. “The machine collects data and helps us to conform to the norms of the GAC.”

On August 27, 2021, the PPCC wrote NEC: “The Commission upon review and careful scrutiny of the NECs By-Elections Procurement Plan expressed justifications and subsequent accompanying documents…are hereby approved.” The approval letter was signed by Jargbe Roseline Nagbe Kowo, Chief Executive Officer of the PPCC, suggesting that all due diligence had been done and that the requester –NEC had fulfilled all its requirements.

Following the approval by the PPCC, on September 1, 2021, in a letter signed by Atty Joseph A. Yarsiah, Director/ Procurement Services, NEC extended a letter of invitation to three companies: Tuma Enterprises Inc., in Congo Town, HAK Technology on Benson & Mechlin Streets and Smart Systems on Clay Street on September 1, 2021.

On the three companies, only Tuma responded to the bid invitation and was subsequently awarded to the contract following evaluation by the bid committee.

Was there a conflict of interest?

The presence of Davidetta Brown Lansanah brother as operation manager of Tuma has also raised some eye-brows.

But officials at the NEC procurement department said there was no conflict of interest as the due process of the procurement exercise was followed without the involvement of the chairperson.https://thenewdawnliberia.com/nec-ends-2021-district-dialogue/-By Othello B. Garblah


The New Dawn is Liberia’s Truly Independent Newspaper Published by the Searchlight Communications Inc. Office is located on The UN Drive in Monrovia Liberia. The New Dawn is a bilingual (both English & French).
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