SECTIONS

MPs grill foreign firms over BVR kits

By ALPHONCE SHIUNDU                                      

Kenya: A powerful parliamentary committee has grilled top bosses of foreign firms that pocketed Sh10 billion to supply equipment to Kenya’s electoral body.

The team seeks answers as to why the biometric kits used to register and identify voters in the last General Election failed to work.

The MPs who continue to pursue the ghosts of Kenya’s General Election held on March 4 last year, are investigating the multibillion contracts paid to foreign suppliers of the voter registration and identification kits.

The watchdog committee wants answers on how millions of taxpayers’ money was “lost or wasted in apparent irregular expenditure and kickbacks” and also wants a categorical position about whether the equipment supplied was “sub-standard or were they tampered with and programed to fail?”

The lawmakers grilled officials of the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) – Vice-President Ms Tamara Parschin-Rybkin and Director for Business Development and Sales Mr Donald Olsen – for five hours on Monday.

Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman Mr Ababu Namwamba, who is leading MPs in the inquest into five contracts the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) signed, said the team wants to know why Sh10 billion of public funds was spent on equipment “that either failed or were never delivered”.

SOUGHT SERVICES

The committee has enlisted the services of a forensic auditor from the Office of the Auditor General Francis Gichuke, and an accountant from the National Treasury Tom Khakame, to find out what the so-called government-to-government loan entailed.

In an email to journalists, Namwamba said the contracts under investigation include the financing arrangement done in liaison with CCC; supply of the biometric voter registration (BVR) kits contracted by IEBC to Morpho Canada and ultimately supplied by French firm SAFRAN Morpho; and supply of electronic voter identification devices (EVIDs) by South African firm, FACE Technologies.

On Namwamba’s team are Cecily Mbarire (Runyenjes), James Bett (Kesses), Ahmed Abass (Ijara) and Jackson Rop (Kipkelion West). Their questions point to a well-orchestrated plan to make money from the kits, whose catastrophic failure led to a collapse of faith in IEBC by half of the country.