Confusion as IEBC tender ‘cancelled’
Controversy and confusion raged yesterday after the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission issued an advert cancelling the tender to supply the biometric voter registration kits. The terse, one-sentence notice, signed by the IEBC chief executive officer James Oswago, announced the commission's decision to terminate the tender following the public uproar caused by the manner in which it was awarded. “This is to inform all the bidders who participated in the above tender that the procurement process has been terminated,” Oswago announced.
However, less that two hours later, the notice was withdrawn by the procurement manager Bernard Nyachieo. Sources within the commission said the tendering process will continue and that the firm listed third on the shortlist of preferred companies — FaceTechnologies of South Africa — might be awarded the tender after the local firm Symphony was knocked out. The tender committee recommended that Symphony should not be awarded due to the negative publicity it attracted and lack of BVR experience on the African continent.
Other companies that were shortlisted for the bid included 4G Identity Solutions of India and Ontrack Innovations of Israel. Sources said that as the squabbles continue, the IEBC may have to consider reverting to the old manual registration system if it is to keep within its election timetable. The old manual register was condemned by the Kreigler Commission appointed to look into the electoral processes in the chaos that followed the December 27, 2007 disputed presidential election.
The Kriegler Commission said the manual register was prone to manipulation, multiple registration and even cases where "dead" people were allowed to vote. The commission recommended the installation of an electronic voter registration system which is supposed to have been in place for use in the elections set for March 4, 2013. Manual registers may be easier and quicker to procure registration kits for especially if the commission is allowed to single source.
However, the commission might also decide to re-advertise the tenders for the biometric voter registration kits afresh. Due to time constraints, the commission could appeal to the Treasury to target pre-qualified bidders. If this happens,the earliest possible time for the Commission to re-advertise would be August 14 and allow another 21 days for interested bidders to submit their bids. At the end of this period, another 120 days is required during which the commission will evaluate, shortlist and award the contract. This means that voter registration might start in December if the IEBC takes this option.
However, the commission might find itself contravening the election law which states that the voter register must be ready at least 90 days before the elections (December 4) if elections will be held on March 4 2013. The Court of Appeal is this morning expected to give its ruling in a case to determine the legality of this election date. For the IEBC to meet the requirements of the Act and unless the election date is changed, voter registration, inspection of the register and voter education must start on September 4 and be done at the same time.
Last Thursday, sections of civil society called on the IEBC to revert to the manual system of voter registration, arguing that the debate generated by the alleged impropriety in the awarding of tenders for the electronic voter register was not good for the commission's integrity. "The current tender process for BVR does not inspire confidence that the process was above board and in the public interest. We therefore call for the cancellation of the tender and a re-commencement and management in a transparent and accountable manner. This was also the advice of the Public Procurement Oversight Authority,” Kenyans for Peace Truth Justice said in a statement.