Fears on election date as IEBC faces fresh hurdles

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati and CEO Ezra Chiloba

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) could have trouble meeting its own deadlines following fears that the technology to be used in the October 17 repeat polls may not be ready.

It has emerged that the technology used to identify voters and transmit results, the Kenya Integrated Elections Management System (KIEMS), will have to be upgraded for the repeat elections to ensure a credible process.

Friday, IEBC commissioners were holed up in a meeting with suppliers of the kit — Safran Morpho — to discuss the upgrade of KIEMS. Sources at the meeting said the experts from Safran, a French firm, were worried that the reconfigured kits may not be ready on time for the elections which must be held within 60 days from the time the Supreme Court nullified the presidential elections due to illegalities during the tallying of votes.

Adverse publicity

The IEBC, which then settled on October 17 as the elections date, is now grappling with how to handle the servers so that it does not interfere with information from the August 8 polls, given that the law requires the preservation of electoral materials for purposes of election petitions.

“Safran sent a letter on Thursday saying they will not be able to meet the deadline for reconfiguration and upgrading the system ahead of Election Day,” the source added, saying this had cast doubts on polls being held on October 17.

Safran, according to sources, also has raised concerns about accusations by political players, especially those in NASA, which accused the IT firm of being complicit in the bungling of elections.

This is one of the issues that its CEO Anne Bouverot, who jetted into the country on Thursday with a delegation of six officials, came to Nairobi to discuss.

The Safran team was determined that users of the system should get it right this time, otherwise their businesses across the world may suffer from the adverse publicity.

“They told us that they don’t want to rush their work and risk a total failure of the system as this will affect their reputation,” the source added.

Following the new requests, IEBC called representatives of Jubilee and NASA to ask them to prepare for an urgent meeting with the presidential candidates.

Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju and National Super Alliance (NASA) secretariat CEO Norman Magaya were at Anniversary Towers to discuss modalities of the meetings.

Yesterday, commission Vice Chairperson Connie Maina declined to comment on the IEBC servers but acknowledged they were meeting Safran officials.

“We are discussing the way forward, but I am not commenting on the servers. We are trying to hold a meeting with political parties very soon. We are talking to the presidential candidates agents,” Ms Maina said.

Yesterday, Magaya and Siaya Senator James Orengo of NASA insisted that there was sufficient time for IEBC to put in place a new system for the identification of voters and transmission of results.

Major crisis

“As far as we are concerned, Safran Morpho is a criminal enterprise and it will be difficult having an election where they are providing the system,”

Magaya added, reigniting debate about their opposition to the system when the French firm was controversially single sourced to supply the Sh3.8 billion election technology.

Orengo said IEBC could still work within the stipulated timelines and acquire a new system to facilitate free, fair and credible elections devoid of fraud.

“Countries like India have about 800 million voters and yet they use the technology to conduct smooth elections within the shortest time, why can’t IEBC do the same with just less than 20 million voters?” Orengo said.

Jubilee Chief presidential agent Davies Chirchir said the Supreme Court may have thrown the country into a major crisis if it did not consider what was required to hold a new election in terms of technology.

“I hope the Supreme Court took into considerations what it takes to have in place technology to conduct fresh elections within 60 days,” Chirchir remarked.

He said IEBC will have problems when it attempts to reconfigure more than 41,000 biometric kits and upgrade the servers without interfering with information stored in them which is required in ongoing poll petitions.

According to the law, election materials have to be securely stored for a certain period of time, mostly between six months to three years, and be produced in court upon a directive.

Safran has ruled out supplying new kits due to time constraint as it takes too long to manufacture and deliver them. This is why it asked that the kits be reconfigured

The IEBC has said it will store the information on Secure Digital (SD) cards and then reconfigure the kits.

“We want the kits to have SD cards to retain the information and use card to provide the same when required,” Ms. Maina said.

The new development now piles pressure on the electoral agency at a time the Opposition has asked that changes be made within the IEBC structure to pave way for a free and fair election.

NASA wants independent international experts to be engaged to manage the entire ICT framework of the elections with close supervision of candidates’ agents and the IEBC.

The opposition also wants results transmission system to be designed on the Oracle platform and overseen by Oracle Consulting. They say there should be no use of cloud servers in results transmission.