LIBERIA: NEC Chairperson Finally Canned, Faces US$182K Indictment

NEC Chairperson, Davidetta Browne Lansanah

The Chairperson of the National Election Commission has been surrendered to Criminal Court “C” to face criminal prosecution for alleged corruption involving the purchase of 20 pieces of facial recognition thermometers.

The amount spent was a little over US$182,320.

The electoral body chair, Davidetta Browne Lansanah, was surrendered to the Court by her lawyer a day after the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) issued a writ of arrest for her to face criminal prosecution over alleged corruption charges stemming from the purchase of the thermometers.

The writ was issued via Judge Ciapha Carey, prayed for by the anti-graft institution and the Ministry of Justice, which is the prosecution arm of the Government.

Mrs. Lansanah is accused by the government of violating Section 1.3.6 of the National Code of Conduct, which speaks against conflict of interest; Part II, Section 2.2 of the LACC Act and section 15.3 of the Money Laundering and as well use of public office for private interest.

According to the LACC, the electoral body chair is being charged for not disclosing her vested interest in Tuma Enterprise Inc., which was awarded the US$182K contract for a facial recognition system while presiding over the procurement Committee.

The investigation found that the Chairperson of the National Elections Commission did not disclose her interest in TUMA Enterprises while presiding over the procurement committee.

“Knowing full well her vested interest (relationship) in the Tuma Enterprise Inc, and having failed to make full disclosure to her fellow Commissioners or the Procurement Committee, is liable of the following counts: Section 1.3.6 (Conflict of Interest) of the National Code of Conduct for all public officials and employees of the government; and Part II, Section 2.2 of the Act establishing the LACC that describes insider trading as an act of corruption,” said Cllr. Edward Martin, Executive Chairperson of the LACC. “And violation of section 15.3 for money laundering under section 15.2 of the Money laundering Act of 2012, which provides insider trading and market manipulations.”

Tuma Enterprise is a technology company established in Liberia in 2020 and has since won lucrative contracts from the government, including the building of a mobile app to keep track of travelers in and out of Liberia about their COVID-19 status.

Meanwhile, Cllr. Micah Wilkins Wright, while surrendering his client to the Court, managed to secure her release by filing a valid criminal appearance bond of US$367,000 to prevent her detention at the Monrovia Central Prison.

Before that, the electoral body chair was briefly detained and was later served the writ of arrest and the indictment, consistent with the law.

The LACC’s findings against Davidetta Browne Lansanah is a result of a month-long investigation into a Daily Observer report that the electoral body leased twenty facial recognition thermometers at the total cost of US$182,320 from a firm with family links to the NEC chair.

Since the investigation, NEC and its chairperson have tried to refute claims of corruption, conflict of interest, and money laundering involving its Chairperson, Davidetta Browne-Lansanah, as levied against her by Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission.

The electoral body, in a response, categorically denied a LACC investigative report that the NEC Chairperson admitted to a conflict of interest and other findings from the probe.

“Following its investigation, the LACC told the public that it has completed its investigation and read out an outcome claiming we had made certain admissions of guilt during our appearance before the LACC,” Mrs. Lansanah said in her response to the LACC report.

“This is false and misleading. We appeared before the LACC with our legal counsels, submitted the requested documents, along with written statements. At no time during the interviews did any of us ever make any admission of guilt as falsely stated during the December 15 LACC press conference,” She added.

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