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November 21, 2018

OT-Morpho starts formatting IEBC kits in new Sh2bn deal

A polling clerk verifies a voters document at the Moi avenue primary school on August 8, 2017./HEZRON NJOROGE
A polling clerk verifies a voters document at the Moi avenue primary school on August 8, 2017./HEZRON NJOROGE

French IT firm OT-Morpho has started re-configuring 40,883 KIEMS kits after sealing an additional Sh2.4 billion deal with the IEBC.

The fresh agreement with the firm, which is at the centre of the Kenyan repeat election storm, was agreed on last Thursday night, after days of talks between the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and the Paris-based company.

The conclusion of talks and the formal signing of the contract paved the way for the firm to kick off the realignment of the election kits for the October 26 repeat presidential election.

The IEBC yesterday confirmed that the electoral body had entered into another agreement with OT-Morpho, ahead of Election Day.

Communications Manager Andrew Limo told the Star the deal was reached after a series of meetings with the firm that culminated in an addendum to the contract signed last Thursday evening.

“The only way to ensure that elections happen as scheduled is to have suppliers of critical infrastructure on board like yesterday,” he said, adding that the amount was hinged on the level of support the technology service provider required for the fresh presidential election.

The Star has established that the French digital firm has hired hundreds of IT technicians who are updating the integrated kits to be deployed, signaling the company’s readiness to provide its disputed technology for the repeat polls.

The temporary staff – working in shifts around-the-clock to beat strict timeliness – are based at a secret location in Syokimau, Machakos county.

The reconfiguration of the kits is critical for the elections authority planning the fresh presidential poll and entails safe retrieval of data used in last month’s elections for safe custody by the commission.

The technicians then upload new particulars of the two presidential candidates – Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga – into the results transmission portal for every kit.

They then code the kits with unique identification features different for each of the 40,883 polling stations countrywide to avoid mix-ups.

According to one of the temporary staff hired, the French firm is also doing systems updates for the gadgets, with new and advanced features that will make it impossible for election officials to transmit results without scanned images of declaration forms.

“It is a marathon, day and night, but a lot is happening currently behind the scenes and in the next two weeks we should be done reconfiguring the kits,” said the temporary technician hired by Morpho, but who cannot be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The IT experts also confirmed that they are configuring the kits with leading mobile services provider Safaricom as the main network provider with Airtel and Telkom as backups.

“We have hundreds of SIM cards to fix, but Safaricom is the main line in all the kits,” said another staffer.

KIEMS kits have an integrated Voters Identification System, the Results Transmission System, and the candidates’ details.

But NASA National Campaign Chairman Musalia Mudavadi termed the Sh2.4 billion contract an “outrageous fraud” on Kenyans, since it was single-sourced and overpriced.

“The Sh2.4 billion contract for an election involving only one position and two candidates is not only outrageous but an act of fraud, deliberate theft of public funds and bribery,” Mudavadi said in a statement.

NASA has claimed that the ‘overpriced’ tender was deliberately inflated from the Sh800 million that the IEBC technical evaluation committee had recommended.

The NASA co-principal maintained that it was irregular and unethical for the IEBC to award the lucrative tender to a firm that faces integrity questions regarding alleged rigging of the August 8 polls.

Even as the IEBC entered into an agreement with Morpho to transmit this month’s presidential election results, Jubilee has already tabled in Parliament far-reaching amendments to the Election Laws that would place more premium on the manual transmission.

In a raft of amendments to the Election Laws (amendment) Bill 2017, and the Election Offences (amendment) Bill 2017, Jubilee says it wants to seal loopholes for election mismanagement that led to the cancellation of last month’s presidential results.

The Supreme Court on September 1 annulled Uhuru’s reelection over “irregularities and illegalities” which the seven-judge Bench said roiled the election.

The proposed laws prescribe a custodial sentence of up to 15 years for any presiding or returning officer who knowingly refuses to sign, submits incomplete forms or wilfully alters or falsifies documents relating to the election.

But Raila and his associates have opposed the laws and called for countrywide mass demonstrations Mondays and Fridays, from today, to push for their withdrawal before the polls.

They have also opposed the involvement of OT-Morpho as IEBC’s technology provider for the repeat polls.

The besieged technology company, which supplied the Sh3.8 billion KIEMS gadgets for last month’s polls, has already rebranded from the OT-Morpho Group and is now known as Idemia.

The brand change comes just half-a-year after Oberthur Technologies merged with Safran Identity & Security to form OT-Morpho.

Idemia’s first – and eagerly anticipated – fiscal update is scheduled for October 6, ahead of the repeat presidential election that will be held on October 26.

The company provided two electronic systems that identified voters and transmitted election results from almost 41,000 polling stations to the IEBC servers, but its role has been stalked by claims of “computer-rigging” of the elections.

It supplied the 45,000 tablets that were used to identify voters biometrically, while the RTS system was used to transmit the results of votes counted by electoral officials as well as a photograph of the paper forms 34A and 34B on which votes were tallied.

The move by the IEBC to re-engage the French firm has sparked protests from Raila’s opposition coalition NASA, which has repeatedly accused OT-Morpho of aiding the bungling of last month’s polls.

Raila’s five-party alliance urged the French government last month to investigate the Paris-based OT-Morpho and its relations with electoral officials who it alleged may have “acted in complicity and connived to undermine the will of the people of Kenya.”

NASA has accused the company of allowing unauthorized access to its servers and manipulating the transmission of results.

However, OT-Morpho said an internal audit of its equipment conducted after the Supreme Court annulled the August 8 presidential election found no foul play.

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