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Thursday, May 23, 2024

JOHN STEWART URGES LACC TO INVESTIGATE NEC CHAIRPERSON DAVIDETTA BROWNE LANSANAH OVER US$2.2 MILLION ELECTION SPENDING

Date:

MONROVIA, LIBERIA – John H.T. Stewart, former Commissioner of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), has announced his intention today to write a letter to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), requesting an investigation into the National Elections Commission (NEC). Steward specifically targets NEC’s Chairperson, Davidetta Browne-Lansanneh, who is currently under criminal indictment by the LACC.

The former TRC Commissioner’s call for an investigation stems from an article published by journalist Charles Yates of Integrity Watch, which alleges corruption in the recent by-elections in a single district in Grand Gedeh and the senatorial election in Nimba. According to insider sources, the alleged importation of voting materials for these elections cost an outrageous sum of US$2.2 million.

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Former TRC Commissioner, John H.T. Stewart

In his statement, Stewart expressed discontent over the situation, particularly citing the case of Cllr. Jawah Gray, the NEC Comptroller. Stward claimed he has no personal acquaintance with Gray and has never interacted with him either officially or personally. He questioned how it could be possible for someone to harbor malice against another individual they do not know.

Stewart emphasized that he has previously published articles on corruption at NEC under the leadership of Cllr. Jerome Korkoya, but he has never named Gray in any of those articles. He raised concerns that this situation might be an attempt to silence him, as he has more information to share. Stward hinted that the upcoming trial will unveil further details on the matter.

John Stewart’s Dispute with Attorney Jawah Gray:

On May 10, 2024, Attorney Jawah Gray, the Comptroller of the National Elections Commission (NEC), filed a US$400,000 libel suit against John H. T. Stewart over a Facebook article titled “Broad Daylight, Highway Robbery at NEC Should Not Be Countenanced,” published on April 24, 2024.

The lawsuit, served by Civil Law Court Deputy Sheriff Fofie Kamara Jr., alleges that Stewart’s article, which criticized alleged corruption at the NEC without mentioning Gray’s name, was malicious and aimed at damaging Gray’s reputation. Stewart, who previously faced legal action from the NEC, views the current lawsuit as an attempt to stifle free expression and shield public officials from scrutiny. He asserts that his writings are in the public interest but cannot afford the $400,000 demanded by Gray.

The lawsuit against Stewart is expected to bring attention to alleged corruption at the NEC, particularly since Gray himself is facing criminal indictment by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LAC). The outcome of this legal battle could have implications for freedom of expression and accountability in Liberia.

Allegations Against NEC’s Chairperson, Davidetta Browne Lansanah:

On April 18, 2024, Smart News Liberia reported allegations of a high-level criminal syndicate at the NEC, with Chairperson Davidetta Browne Lansanah accused of masterminding the operation. Charles Yates, a Liberian journalist, and publisher of Integrity Watch, revealed documents suggesting a fraudulent payment of over US$160,000 to a local vendor for services never rendered. Yates described the malpractices as a criminal syndicate aimed at defrauding the Liberian government through fraudulent transactions.

According to Yates, one NEC Commissioner initially resisted the suspicious payment, questioning the lack of evidence for services rendered. However, Chairperson Lansanah allegedly insisted on the payment to “take care of some legislators.” Further investigations by Integrity Watch uncovered alleged collaboration between NEC and the vendor to deceive the government by fabricating documents claiming the delivery of election materials, which were actually repackaged unused materials from past elections.

Chairperson Lansanah declined to comment on the allegations, while Co-chairperson Teepla Reeves denied any knowledge of the transaction. These accusations are not the first against Lansanah, who has previously faced allegations of awarding a dubious contract to her brother for providing election equipment. As investigations continue, Liberia’s electoral process remains under scrutiny for integrity and transparency.

Socrates Smythe Saywon
Socrates Smythe Saywon is a Liberian journalist. You can contact me at 0777425285 or 0886946925, or reach out via email at saywonsocrates@smartnewsliberia.com or saywonsocrates3@gmail.com.

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