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Liberia At Crossroads As UN Departs: National Elections Commission

By John H.T. Stewart

Presidential and Legislative elections are due in a little less than 2 years from now. But before then the United Nations Peace Keeping Force would have fully completed its drawdown of troops leaving security entirely in the hands of the country’s security forces.

Already, Liberians are filled with apprehension and doubt about the capability of our national security forces to assume this all important national task particularly as we approach elections which shall without doubt be tension filled.

The Zero sum nature of politics in Liberia in which the winner takes all us a major driver responsible for the mushrooming of political parties around elections but soon die or become dormant after elections.
There is no doubt that Presidential elections especially the forthcoming elections will be a very contentious affair. In all cases, the credibility of the National Electoral body is key to ensuring public confidence in the process and enhances the prospects for peaceful acceptance of elections results.

For example the 1985 elections whose results were stolen by incumbent military leader Doe produced such copious amounts of national ill will that contributed in no small measure to the slide into civil war and general anarchy. Under the Emmett Harmon led Elections Commission, ballots were burned, ballot boxes stuffed and a host of other irregularities set into play to ensure the ascendancy of Doe.

And do as we approach these elections we find ourselves faced with the same issues of credibility with the current elections body NEC. We have long held the impression based on facts that the leadership was poor, corrupt and inept and the entire body needed to go or least be overhauled. But those concerns went unheeded.

And so we pose the question again: Is the NEC credible and can it handle the enormity and complexity of the task at hand given all that is apparent on record? Not so says Mr. Joseph Duwana, former Director of Finance and Budget at the National Elections Commission (NEC) who resigned his post in November 2014 in protest against massive corruption occurring under the watch of Chairman Jerome Korkoya.

On November 3, 2014 Mr. Duwana wrote….” As I submit to you my letter of resignation, the cost of ballots remained double in excess of $275,000, the cost of elections material is stated in excess of $300,000, the cost of vehicles is overstated in excess of $200,000. These actions by you are possible because of the grant of PPCC which allows you to negotiate prices in excess of stated amount. Also, support from our partners is never clearly reported to the Ministry of Finance thus allowing you to charge GOL for the same activities”.

It is interesting to note that Mr. Korkoya has not responded to these charges. And so there are questions whether the recent EU grant to NEC as elections support are going to be squandered just the same.

Take for example how in 2013, April 3, to be exact, Chairman Korkoya ordered the purchase for his use a very expensive vehicle costing $64,000, a Toyota Land Cruiser jeep bearing serial number JTEBD9FJ70KOO7867, a 2011 model which was sold to him on auction on February 6, 2015 at a cost of a mere $11,000.

As regards salary, Chairman Korkoya in 2014 earned a net monthly pay of $7,065.91, his Deputy earned $6,324.06 with the rest of Commissioners earning a net monthly pay of $5,731.60.

But by January 2015, net monthly pay for Chairman Korkoya had shot up to $12,283.49. A Liberian dollar component was included and it stands at a net monthly pay of LD 1,025,671.42 and that includes 300 gallons of gasoline monthly. In 2014, the Liberian dollar component was 775,171.42 calculated at an exchange rate of 83.50 LD to one USD. While his deputy received in 2014, a net monthly pay of $8,294.35 and a Liberian dollar component of LD 99,532.20 and the rest received$7,504.41 and LD 90,052.92

And so as can be seen NEC Commissioners are being more than adequately taken care of so there is absolutely no justification for such gross financial improprieties at NEC.

It must not be forgotten that it is under the Korkoya leadership such unprecedented challenges to by- elections results have been mounted to the point where the Supreme Court had to intervene. It is scary to imagine what the outcomes will be in 2017 when UNMIL will not be here with elections presided over by a crooked politician who once ran for public office but lost. So who’s going to win the guy with the biggest gun or the guy with the fattest wallet?

My God then help us all!

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