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Big money and big names in ballots tender dispute

By Standard Team | Published Sun, June 18th 2017 at 00:00, Updated June 17th 2017 at 21:27 GMT +3

Big money and political machinations are central to the controversial ballot printing tender, the Sunday Standard can authoritatively reveal.

Names associated with prominent politicians are directly linked to vendors and agents of companies caught up in the bid to print ballot papers for the August 8 elections.

When the IEBC first signed the ballot paper contract with Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing Company in November 2016, a South African company, Paarl Media, petitioned the Public Procurement Review Board (PPRB) to challenge the decision. Paarl Media, which had printed ballot papers in the Uganda elections, was in partnership with a local company, Africa Infrastructure Development Company, represented by Sailesh Patel.

According to documents in our possession, it was Sailesh who made inquiries on behalf of Paarl Media to IEBC. The PPRB was dissatisfied with the procedures that the electoral agency had taken and ordered that the tender be cancelled.

During the hearing at the Review Board, lawyer Willis Otieno represented Paarl Media. The Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) was enjoined in the suit and was represented by lawyers Apollo Mboya and Siaya Senator James Orengo.

Speaking to the Sunday Standard yesterday, Otieno confirmed that he indeed represented Paarl Media at PPRB.

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“I am an advocate and I represented Paarl Media in this case. IEBC made their mistakes and they should take responsibility. I also don’t work for NASA or Raila campaign for that matter,” he said, refuting claims that he was a member of the campaign team.

As this was going on, there was pressure from prominent Jubilee Party politicians to ensure a local firm gets the ballot printing contract.

Key player in JP

Former Energy Cabinet Secretary Davis Chirchir, who is also a key player in JP, even called top officers within the commission to lobby for Ellams Products Limited, a local security printing firm.

“Chirchir called many people here. He was pushing to get Ellams to be considered for award of this ballot tender under direct procurement,” said a highly-placed source at the IEBC. This bid however collapsed when the IEBC announced Al Ghurair had secured the contract. However, Chirchir denied the allegations, saying he was not aware of an initiative to have a local firm given the tender.

“I do not hold such an influential position in Jubilee to make such moves. In fact, I am not anywhere in the Jubilee structure,” Chirchir said.

It will be remembered that Ellams printed ballot papers that were used in the JP primaries.

Sources told the Sunday Standard that powerful forces within the party wanted this lucrative tender awarded to Ellams because of the potentially fat commission that would be harvested from such an award.

As a consequence, the IEBC was trapped between two political establishments pushing for distinct political interests and a decision from PPRB requiring them to cancel the tender.

The NASA leadership has questioned JP’s role in the Al Ghurair deal. The Opposition said that a meeting between the owners of the firm and top Jubilee leadership was arranged to ensure the Dubai firm secured the tender.

But in a statement sent to the Sunday Standard, Al Ghurair said it had no links with any political party in Kenya.

“Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing LLC is a professionally managed large printing firm established over the last four decades exporting various types of printed products to Pan Arab region and all over Africa,” said the statement. The statement said Majid Saif Al Ghurair is not the CEO of Al Ghurair Printing and he has no connection or association with the firm.

“Please note that there are two distinct business conglomerates in Dubai which share the same family name. The other business conglomerate is Saif Al Ghurair Group which has no connection or shareholding in Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing,” said the statement.

Al Ghurair had previously been called upon by a UN agency to provide election materials in countries where the UN provides technical assistance for conduct of elections.

Exceedingly high cost

The tender has triggered fresh claims that the cost of printing the ballot papers was exceedingly high. However, IEBC Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba dismissed the claims.

“This is a framework contract. Our duty is to ensure competitive prices within the market rate as required by the law, which I have no doubt in my mind that we have achieved. The price will be determined by the complexity of the features that will guarantee the integrity of the ballot. The price will also be determined by the size of the ballot paper, which will also be determined by the number of candidates,” Chiloba said.

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