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February 23, 2019

IEBC cancels tender for poll equipment, seeks to lease

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati and CEO Ezra Chiloba arrive at the press conferencewhere they released the status report on mass voter registration and election preparedness at the Anniversary Towers on February 21, 2017./JACK OWUOR
IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati and CEO Ezra Chiloba arrive at the press conferencewhere they released the status report on mass voter registration and election preparedness at the Anniversary Towers on February 21, 2017./JACK OWUOR

Kenya could be headed to a major crisis as the IEBC explores ways of ensuring that the electoral technology is in place before the August 8 election.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is considering other options to beat the deadlines set by amendments to the election laws.

On Tuesday, the IEBC terminated a tender for the installation of the Kenya Integrated Elections Management System for the polls.

Curiously, the commission said it had “lost important lead time due to litigation over the tender”, indicating that the IEBC fears that the technology will not be in place on time.

No time for long procedure

“Given the remaining legal steps to conclude the tender, it will be almost impossible for the commission to execute its mandate within the statutory timelines,” a letter by the IEBC to French firm Gemalto SA said.

The firm was being considered for the tender.

In the letter, IEBC chief executive Ezra Chiloba said the commission also considered that the scope of the technology requirements had changed after the mass voter registration.

“Therefore, the commission considered that there would be no value for money to retain the voter registration in KIEMS at present,” he said.

But IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati downplayed the development, saying the commission is still on schedule in preparation for the election.

“The issue of technology, KIEMS, is a work in progress and we shall give our usual Tuesday briefing next week on the progress we shall have made so far,” he said.

“I want to confirm to the country that we are within our timelines and we shall give this country free, fair and credible elections come August 8.”

Plans to beat deadline

The Star established that the IEBC is considering options to beat the deadlines set in the election laws.

One option it is said to be looking into is hiring the technology from other countries that have deployed the same, such as Ghana.

Another option is to float another tender, but which deals with only the identification of voters and the transmission of results.

A third option is to work on upgrading the existing technology, which was used with difficulty at the last election.

Due to procurement laws, the IEBC will then have to seek permission to solicit the suitable tender.

If this fails, the commission may be forced to replicate the 2013 scenario that allowed for a government-to-government contract.

Last Thursday, the electoral agency was in the process of concluding the Sh3 billion tender with Gemalto SA.

But in his letter to the firm on Tuesday, Chiloba said Gemalto’s “financial bid was significantly above the budgetary provision”.

The system is meant to integrate the existing biometric voter registration, the biometric voter identification, the electronic results transmission and the political party and candidate registration systems.

According to the Elections Act, procurement of electoral technology should be done eight months to the elections and the IEBC should test, verify and deploy such technology at least 60 days before a general election.

Last week, the Star also revealed that two top Jubilee officials have been accused of influencing the award of the tender to a firm some termed as having “questionable capacity”.

It also emerged that Gemalto SA lacks a technical capacity to deliver the complex integrated technology required for the general election.

The firm has no history of dealing with elections and, in fact, specialises in chip technology for mobile telephony and banking.

Consult on the way forward

The opposition has long been saying the election will be rigged, especially through manipulated and compromised technology.

Yesterday, ODM director of Political Affairs Opiyo Wandayi praised the IEBC for terminating the tender, saying taxpayers’ money must be protected.

He said the opposition was vindicated for its reservations with the manner in which the IEBC has conducted itself for more than a year.

Wandayi added that an electoral process is so critical that you cannot afford to manage it exclusively.

“Where we are currently, there is probably one way out and that is for the IEBC to bring together all the key stakeholders to work out a way forward,” he said.

“The way forward here would basically entail two things — one, direct procurement of a service provider whose integrity and capacity has been ascertained. And second, we could borrow this technology from other jurisdictions and we have in mind South Africa. Even Ghana used it the other day very successfully.”

Former commissioner with the now-defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya Jack Tumwa also said stakeholders should meet to seek a solution.

Electoral Law and Governance Institute CEO Felix Odhiambo said, “The IEBC, by their action of terminating this tender, has inadvertently played into the hands of politicians by failing to provide leadership in a very crucial aspect of the electoral process. If we are to restore credibility in our elections in 2017, then technology is a must.”

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