One of othe polling centres in Mombasa. [PHOTO: FILE/STANDARD]
By Alex Kiprotich
KENYA: A local Information Technology (IT) firm, Next Technology, has produced an audit report that provides never-heard-before detailed insights into the many things that went wrong during the March 4, General Election.
The Next Technologies report on the collapse of the electronic results transmission system during last month’s elections is the first independent account of the failures on a national scale.
In a report that reads like a sensational catalogue of things not-to-do, Next Technologies details the failures starting from the national tallying centre at Bomas in Nairobi to the polling centres in the various counties.
The report says that IEBC’s computer system was incomplete and untested before the elections that were marred by the catastrophic failure to transmit results electronically, according to a technical report just released.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) contracted NEXT Technologies to carry out an assessment and provide national IT support to for the elections.
The sheer lack of preparedness is revealed in the report that noted that one of the two main servers required for the elections was not installed until a day before the election and it was therefore not tested.
The report’s findings paint the picture of an overwhelmed IEBC desperately struggling with technology in the final hours ahead of the election and its field staff — many untrained or ill-equipped for the task — oblivious of the technological nightmare that awaited them on March 4.
“It is the view of this completion report based on observations during the first round of the elections that the development of the system was incomplete by the time of election,” reads the report.
The report adds: “This can be attributed to the noted system behaviour characterised by the different system components which were intended to function as a whole seeming to have been functioning in isolation which led to the system being unstable and unable to fulfil user requirements especially in the transmission of the bulk of the results.”
The report details numerous other failures experienced with the software and hardware in counties spread throughout the country such as:
Faulty configuration of mobile phones, some were spoilt, others had no batteries or SIM cards, passwords failed to work on mobile phones, laptops could not receive results from the mobile phones and were therefore not able to reflect and show results for the performance of various candidates.
Other problems included the failure of the National Tallying Centre server, poor choice of mobile network in some cases and faulty laptop batteries
The report by Next technologies lays blame squarely at the door of IEBC saying that the reporting server set up was incomplete and was just brought in a day before the election and that the operating system and service packs were installed on the eve of elections.
This comes as IEBC chairman admitted there were inconsistencies and failures witnessed in the just concluded polls but still maintained that the elections were credible.
Hassan said they faced challenges that affected the conduct of the elections.
“We faced serious challenges which affected the conduct of the elections but in the end we had a fallback position that ensured we delivered a credible election,” he said in his first public speech since March 4 polls.
Engineers from the firm say there was lack of access to the server over the network and the stress test could only be run by physically accessing the machine in the server room.
Despite IEBC calling for an ICT group meeting on March 2 at Bomas to assess the state of preparedness amongst the ICT partners for the elections, the report indicates that the testing was limited only to viewing the visualisation software.
The report also says that the results transmission and publishing system, which were used for transmission and visualization respectively, were not available for testing.
Another mistake committed by IEBC which led to the collapse of the electronic transmission hours after it relayed the first results is traced to a decision by the electoral body a week before the elections when it moved its software to new server which had already been set up and was being utilised by EVID.
“Due to time limitations,” the report says, “the system was not reformatted and no installation of same operating system. This oversight had serious consequences for electronic results transmission as one of the critical partitions had been configured not to expand when it got full.”
The IEBC’s decision to configure the data base management system to replicate the results database to the back up soon filled up the critical partition forcing the provisional server to freeze.
The report details significant failures in all the 47 counties including areas where when presiding officers sent results, the system rejected and indicated that results had already been sent. One such example is that of Meru County where the report says presiding officers were unable to use the electronic results transmission (ERT) because of errors the ERT application was generating on the log screen. “Upon successful log in and input of the results, the system would reject to take in results displaying that results had already been sent.” During voting day in most polling stations, there was voter delay due to incorrect combination of usernames and passwords, which caused a large number of officials to be unable to log in on Election Day.
In some polling stations in Western Kenya, some phones particularly those assigned to polling stations bordering Uganda captured MTN Network instead of Safaricom making relaying of results impossible.
“The main concern was that some places in Bungoma region being very close to Kenya/Uganda border the network frequently changed to MTN Network. We had raised this issue and it was agreed that they would change Safaricom lines to Airtel lines and Airtel to Safaricom. This was cancelled on the last day.”
Either because they were overwhelmed or because of confusion in the whole election process, IEBC overlooked some critical issues that resulted in the confusion that characterised the elections.
Network providers have not been spared either in the damning report. Because no mobile network provider covers the whole country, it was decided that Safaricom and Airtel would deliver the transmission component of the results management system. The network providers were supposed to boost signals at polling stations and tallying centres.
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