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Questions as blacklisted company on the verge securing more electoral deals

KENYA
By Jacob Ng'etich | December 28th 2020
File Photo

Questions are being raised on those behind the push to have a company that was condemned over supply of election equipment to the electoral agency, get more deals worth billions of shillings.

Already, there is a push to have Idemia, a controversial French firm, to get more deals and specifically to supply technology platform to run the coming constitutional review referendum and the 2022 General Election.

The company, which was formerly known as Safran Morpho Limited and later OT-Morpho, supplied election equipment of the controversial 2017 presidential election that was nullified by the Supreme Court.

Insiders at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) say the three commissioners have seemingly endorsed the firm.

“They are already in support of the deal,” said an official aware of the developments.

This follows the move by the Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani to write to IEBC asking them to continue using the company in the upcoming electoral plans.

The National Assembly passed a recommendation barring the company from doing business in Kenya for 10 years for violating the Companies Act.

But the High Court overturned the ban in May.

“Following the successful challenge by M/s Idemia of the ban adopted by the Public Accounts Committee at the High Court, and in view of the prevailing constrained fiscal environment, the National Treasury recommends that the commission (IEBC) should continue engagement with the current vendor to support and maintain the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) technology,” said a brief by Mr Yatani.

This was in response to a query by IEBC on the matter.

Insiders say the move was intentional to enable the company get the multi-billion shilling tenders because of bad timing.

“They intentionally wait until the last hour and say the only company that can handle this is Idemia. This is part of the game plan to enrich a few people,” said an insider.

The source said the secretariat was pushing this agenda for some outsiders who have interests in the tenders.

“We need to have Members of Parliament revisit the matter but by the look of things the time is on their side,” said the source.

The commissioners had apparently rejected a plan to have the company run the affairs.

Idemia pocked deals worth millions of shillings including supplying 31,500 biometric kits for Huduma Namba registration and in 2017 provided IEBC with the Kenya Integrated Elections Management System (KIEMS) that was to be used to verify the voters’ list before the election and later authenticate the voters with their fingerprints and photos before being allowed to vote.

But on election day, everything that could go wrong went wrong, as the system failed.

Apart from Kenya, the company was blacklisted in Nigeria, Zambia and Canada over the manner in which it handled elections.

The firm had been given a five-year contract in 2016 to maintain IEBC’s Biometric Voter Registration system, which hosts the register of voters.

The contract is set to expire next year and the commission now wants to be exempted from the centralised procurement of ICT equipment and services.

And the Solicitor General Kennedy Ogeto wants Attorney General Paul Kariuki to advise the IEBC on the advice given by the National Treasury.

Should the AG give the deal a clean bill of health, then Idemia will be one step closer to securing the technology contract one more time, without having to go through a competitive tendering process.

This will mean other bidders will be locked out.

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