A month into Covid, the President of the Court of Appeal William Ouko issued a guidance note on how court proceedings would be conducted during the global coronavirus pandemic that was just unravelling.
The whole process - from filing, fee payment, hearings and delivery of judgements - would now happen online in an unprecedented shift that was a culture shock to many at the time.
Like in most public sectors, the pandemic accelerated digitisation in the Judiciary with 144,000 cases heard through virtual courts and 356,997 new cases filed, a fact lauded recently by Chief Justice Martha Koome.
“During this period, the Judiciary transitioned from the traditional face to face proceedings to online court processes supported by internet technology,” said Justice Koome in the latest State of the Judiciary report.
“This presented an opportunity to bring to fruition previous efforts to automate the Judiciary’s processes and accelerated passage to virtual workspaces.”
This digital transformation has opened up opportunities for firms to execute ICT projects at the Judiciary - with one of the jobs leading to a tender dispute. In March this year, the Judiciary’s Chief Registrar Anne Amadi advertised a tender for the provision of an audit management software.
The software was, among other things, expected to have risk assessment modules, capture internal audit parameters, enable auditors track and implement audit plans and automatically generate reports.
The system would also allow managers to track relative risk levels, trends over time and, using specialised dashboards, prepare audit plans over time horizons ranging from three months to three years.
Tender documents indicated that the winning bidders would have 90 days to carry out installation and training of users, and further provide licences for 21 audit officers over a three years.
Three firms were shortlisted for the tender: Grande-Afrique Consulting Ltd, a management consulting firm based in Kenya; Wolters Kluwer Ltd, a global software firm registered in the Netherlands, and Dynasoft Business Ltd, a software vendor based in Kenya.
Dynasoft bid Sh14.5 million for the entire project while Grande Afrique Consulting placed a bid of Sh11.4 million. Wolters Kluwer, which later emerged the winner, submitted a bid of Sh29.7 million.
This prompted Grande Afrique to move to the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board (PPARB) seeking a review of the award.
According to the firm, the Judiciary’s procurement officer unlawfully awarded the tender to Wolters Kluwer that had bid Sh29.7 million against its own bid of Sh11 million, while dismissing its bid using frivolous reasons.
Grande Afrique said it was failed because it did not meet the 80 per cent pass mark. According to tender documents, bidders scoring a minimum of 70 per cent were eligible to proceed to the next stage of evaluation.
“The respondents (Judiciary) further averred that whereas it was stated in the notification that the applicant did not attain the pass mark of 80 per cent, they conceded that the same was an innocent typographical error that occurred only in the notification letter to the applicant,” said the the review from the board.
The Judiciary further argued that Grande Afrique failed to attach a training curriculum for auditors and instead, provided a training timetable. Grande Afrique was also accused of not attaching enough brochures and manufacturer’s authorisation for the software to be supplied.
The firm argued that it provided six letters of reference instead of the required three and that it had supplied a similar software to public entities including Kenya Pipeline Company, Kenya Revenue Authority and Teachers Service Commission.
In the end, PPARB sided with the Judiciary and dismissed the company’s request for a review, stating that Grande Afrique had scored 65.5 against the threshold of 70 per cent.
“Financial evaluation and comparison was to be undertaken only for bidders who passed the pre-requisite stages of preliminary and technical evaluation whereas the applicant only passed the preliminary stage,” said the board.