The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission yesterday made a turnaround and adopted manual voter registration over the troubled electronic exercise. The decision to revert to the manual voter registration was welcomed by Justice and constitutional affairs minister Eugene Wamalwa and local elections observers, the Institute for Education and Democracy.
IEBC chairman Isaack Hassan said the voter registration exercise will now get underway after the pending by-elections in Ndhiwa, Kangema and Kajiado North constituencies on September 17. “The Commission wishes to make it known to Kenyans that we have terminated the process of acquiring the Bio-Metric Voter Registration kits. All the tenderers have been so notified,” Hassan said yesterday.
The confusion over the BVR tender reached a crescendo on Monday when the commission CEO James Oswago terminated the exercise only for his subordinate who is the procurement manager Bernard Nyachieo to reverse the decision. The Commission then went into a marathon meeting that ended midnight Tuesday and agreed to cancel the tender.
A staffer who attended the meeting described it as tense, with Oswago standing firm that the tender be terminated. At one point, Oswago threatened to resign if the commissioners insisted on going ahead with the tender. "In view of the time constraints to conduct a fresh BVR tendering process, the commission has resolved to use the Optical Mark Reader for the voter registration process," Hassan said."We assure Kenyans that OMR voter register was used in the 2010 Referendum, in all 12 by-elections and 50 civic wards. This register, with over 12.4 million voters, is valid.
With OMR, the Commission will seek to digitise the manual registers through scanning. He added that the voter registration exercise will include an update of the current voters register where those who were not in the register will be registered afresh while allowing those wishing to transfer to do so. IED however called for fresh registration across the board given that there have been boundaries realignments and creation of 80 new constituencies that were not there before referendum.
The Star has established that IEBC is also in the process of cancelling the the poll book tender, an electronic voter reference system that would have replaced the black book. The two tenders were running concurrently. Speaking on Citizen TV yesterday, Wamalwa said IEBC has redeemed its image by terminating the tender. “They tried their best but there were a lot of vested interests,” Wamalwa said.
Hassan had earlier dismissed the Star’s allegation of boardroom wars at IEBC over the July 6 poll tender report that raised fears that the Commission could revert to manual registers. The tender committee awarded the contract to Symphony, which was not the lowest bidder. The tender was disqualified due to lack of experience and negative publicity. The commission had shortlisted four firms namely 4G Identity Solutions, Symphony, Face Technologies and OnTrack.