By Alagie Manneh
The Citizens’ Alliance has alleged the reason behind the recent postponement of voter registration exercise was because the IEC wants to single source the contract for the supply of voter materials.
Addressing its monthly press briefing on current issues, CA’s presidential candidate, Dr Ismaila Ceesay further stated: “Based on our investigations, the IEC wanted to single source the procurement process. They did the same thing in 2011 and 2016. This year too, they want to do the same single sourcing but the Ministry of Finance said it has to go through a tender process. The tender process started and four companies tendered their bids. One is ESI, a Canadian company, the second is a German company and another is Chinese, including one locally-owned company called Smart Business Group The Gambia. However, the first issue with regard to this whole scenario was that the IEC would not allow a joint venture. It means that a Gambian company, which lacks the reference and capacity to provide these materials would want to partner with a foreign company which has the experience, capacity and reference but the IEC said no, no joint venture. It means technically, Gambian companies were entirely removed from the system.”
He said their investigations also revealed that the company that the IEC wants to give the contract to was not the “most qualified”.
“We need some clarifications from the IEC and the GPPA. We understand ESI was not the most qualified company. In fact, they are not the most financially responsive of all the companies that bid. The same ESI supplied IEC election materials in 2011 and in 2016 under a different company name- Code. They went bankrupt and changed their name to ESI. That should be very clear,” Dr Ceesay alleged. “Based on our findings also, IEC had a very bad experience with this company called Code, so, the question is, why would we want to deal with the same company? We also need to know what [election] materials are we going to get?” Dr Ceesay stated.
He said the IEC is however now willing to be flexible on the matter.
“They are going to go for a second tender and are going to remove the clause which says that joint ventures are not accepted. It means Gambian businesses can partner others to win the contract. We are waiting now for the outcome of that entire process and see which company is going to win the tender,” Dr Ceesay added.
“Elections are no joke; they are life and death issues. They are about democracy; they are about security and peace and stability. Our position is very clear; we urge the IEC to make sure that whatever they do, they do it right and look at the greater interest.”
The political scientist called for a transparent electoral process.
“This is not any ordinary voter registration. It is to register new voters as well and, since 2011, the Gambian population has grown exponentially and we have a lot of young people who are eligible to vote in 2021. The next election is going to be a very high-stake election, within a very fragile and unpredictable context. Therefore, it is important we get the voter registration right, otherwise it can undermine the integrity of the election. In that regard, we take the postponement very seriously,” he said.