5 firms floated in IEBC crisis talks

IEBC CEO Ezra Chiloba (left) and IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati (right) (Photo: Courtesy)

The electoral agency is looking for a new company to replace Al Ghurair in the event its appeal on the presidential ballot paper printing tender does not succeed.

Sources said the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) officials yesterday identified five firms that could do the work during a crisis meeting yesterday. The Court of Appeal will make its ruling on Thursday.

It also emerged IEBC had secured Treasury's approval to undertake specialised tendering, which eliminates cumbersome procurement procedures, should the commission be required to replace the Dubai-based Al Ghurair.

The meeting had earlier been scheduled for Sunday afternoon but was postponed due to lack of quorum.

Sources explained on Monday that the talks were heated, with some commissioners insisting  IEBC should await the Court of Appeal ruling while others said the agency should prepare itself sufficiently in case of a negative outcome.

But following the two-and-a-half hour talks, the commission reached a consensus to initiate discussions with at least five firms, hoping to find one with the technical capability to deliver the presidential ballots within the strict timelines and at a considerable price.

The companies under consideration include two United Kingdom Security printing experts Tall Security and GI solutions. GI Solutions is linked to Smith and Ouzman. Others are South African firms Pearl Media, Unprint and Renform.

"The commission was meant to meet on Sunday but as fate would have it, that didn't happen because there was no quorum. The meeting however took place this afternoon. It was basically a brainstorming session on the possible outcome of the court process and how to prepare for the same," said a source close to the goings-on at IEBC.

Majority leader Aden Duale has in the past linked senior Opposition leaders to some security printing firms in South Africa even as NASA insisted that Al Ghurair, the company at the centre of the ballot printing case, is linked to Jubilee.

IEBC has already written to the National Treasury asking for permission to undertake specialised tendering of presidential ballot papers should the court demand so. Specialised tendering would exempt the commission from normal procurement procedures because of the urgency of the service.

Sources at the Treasury told The Standard that Treasury CS Henry Rotich has granted IEBC its request.

"They have written to us asking for permission to undertake specialised tendering of presidential ballots. Our assumption is that the commission is basically taking contingency measures as they await the outcome of the court case. That request has since been granted," said a source at the National Treasury.

Contacted, IEBC Communications Manager Andrew Limo said IEBC would wait for the outcome of the court case before discussing any options.

"Whatever the outcome, we will find a way out within the law and there are many ways of doing that. For now we don't want to be speculative. We will cross the bridge when we get there," said Limo.

The High Court cancelled the tender for printing presidential ballot papers awarded to Al Ghurair, citing lack of public participation but the commission has appealed against the decision.

On Friday last week, IEBC told Court of Appeal judges Festus Githinji, Otieno Odek, Jamilla Mohamed, Alnassir Visram and Roslyn Nambuye that if the commission is to follow the orders of the lower court, it will require 50 days to have the much needed voting papers in the country.

Through lawyers Paul Muite, Kamau Karori and Milly Odari, the commission argued that it will require 23 days to have a fresh procurement document and an additional 21 days to have the printing done.

According to IEBC, proof reading and acceptance will require at least six days and by this time the August 8 election day will have already passed.

50 days

"We will not have presidential ballot papers if we do not start printing on Tuesday as it had been envisaged," the judges heard.

"We will need at least 50 days to have those papers in the country if the orders of the High Court are followed."

According to IEBC, the National Super Alliance (NASA) made a deliberate move to sue close to the election date in order to derail the whole process.

"Why did NASA have to wait until June 22 knowing there was time constraint?" paused lawyer Kamau.

The judges were also told that there is confusion about the ruling by High Court judges Joel Ngugi, George Odunga and Joseph Onguto as they issued orders quashing the entire tender but only ordered procurement of presidential ballot papers.