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IEBC officials on spot over 2013 Poll

NAIROBI: A parliamentary watchdog has recommended a criminal investigation of all electoral commissioners over alleged procurement malpractices and proposed reconstitution of the commission.

The recommendations, by the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), if followed through could reshape the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and install a new team to manage next year’s General Election. Among radical reforms proposed in the report – following an investigation into the procurement of Biometric Voter

Registration kits that malfunctioned during the 2013 General Election, is that IEBC should comprise three members to serve on a part-time basis.

The 10-member commission currently comprises of chairman Issack Hassan, eight commissioners and the chief executive officer, who serves as the commission secretary.

PAC has recommended that the process of nominating and appointing the commissioners should be as participatory and inclusive as possible taking into account key national interests, inclusivity and involvement of all the stakeholders.

The committee wants Mr Hassan and the commissioners held personally responsible for the loss of Sh4.08 billion occasioned by a skewed tendering process that led to the acquisition of malfunctioning election equipment.

It also wants IEBC Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba to not only return Sh256 million he paid to Face Technologies, the supplier of the controversial kits, without a valid contract, but also barred from holding public office.

The report recommends that Hassan and commissioners Mohamed Alawi and Thomas Letangule be investigated for being at the centre of the scam that led to the procurement of the faulty equipment.

It also wants a thorough lifestyle audit on the three commissioners and their counterparts, Albert Bwire, Kule Godana, Yusuf Nzibo, Abdullahi Sharawe and Muthoni Wangai to establish the source of their riches within and after 2013 elections.

"EACC should conduct a thorough lifestyle audit of the commissioners and members of the tender committee to establish the source of their wealth during and after the procurement of the electronic devices," reads the report.

The committee claims Hassan, Mr Alawi and Mr Letangule made strenuous efforts to influence the award of the tender to the Canadian company, Face Technologies, and not its competitor 4G Solutions.

The three, according to the MPs, were found to have lobbied in an apparent case of favouritism and conflict of interest.

LIFESTYLE AUDIT

"EACC should investigate the three officers for their apparent involvement in the procurement of BVR kits, and for their role in exerting undue influence and pressure for the tender to be awarded to Face and not 4G. This was in contravention of the IEBC Act 2011, that clearly stipulates that procurement should be solely the function of the secretariat of the commission," said the report in possession of The Standard.

On Mr Chiloba, the report says: "Recovery measures be instituted on the IEBC CEO for payment of extra claims of Sh258 million to Face Technologies without a valid contract...The committee further recommends that he be barred from holding public office."

The committee, chaired by Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo, dismissed the arguments by Chiloba that he authorised payment on the grounds that the commission had already taken possession and used the equipment.

"The argument does not replace the laid down procedures for payment of claims," said PAC.

BLACKLIST FIRM

The report, which also recommended the blacklisting of Face Technologies, is expected to be tabled in the House today.

In the 2013 General Election, the country undertook to use the electronic equipment for voter registration but most failed on voting day, forcing the commission to revert to the manual system.

Since then, IEBC has been at the centre of claims that the procurement of the equipment was undertaken in a shadowy process that did not meet the laid down processes.

PAC recommends that the electoral body undergoes major reforms that would see a clear separation of duties between the secretariat and the commissioners.

The committee during its investigation interviewed the IEBC officials and former Grand Coalition Government officials thought to be privy to the transactions.

During the hearings, it was noted that some of those implicated in the BVR equipment saga did not honour the summons to explain their role.

Also adversely mentioned in the report are the Chief of Staff in the Office of the President Joseph Kinyua and Caroli Omondi, the former aide to Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who at the time served as prime Minister.

The report recommends that the two officials alongside five other members of the joint committee for the procurement be charged for their role in the loss of public funds.

Those recommended for prosecution include Dismas Ong'ondi, Edwin Karisa, Selentine Otunga, John Tuta and Emma Mburu, who the report noted ignored advise from the Attorney General and put road blocks in efforts to cheaply acquire the kits from the French government.

"They should be charged for failure to safeguard the public funds, costing Kenyans an extra Sh4 billion and further ignored precautions by the Attorney General for the use of government-to-government transactions," reads the report. It calls for further charges against former Chief Executive Officer James Oswago.

It also notes that the National Assembly should institute reforms to the Elections Act 2011 to "enhance the fidelity and credibility of the General Election and the confidence of Kenyans in the entire electoral process."

The committee wants all ICT procurement done at least 12 months to the General Election and be tested twice by representatives of political parties in Parliament and other stakeholders.

Others recommended for possible prosecution are Immaculate Kasait, Joel Mabonga, Peter Ibrae, Nancy Kairiuki, Mohamed Jabane, Dinah Liech, Bilha Kiptugen and Bernard Nyachieo for their role in the second BVR committee that awarded the contract to Face Technologies.

PAC asked the Attorney General to institute recovery mechanisms of Sh305 million from Canadian Commercial Corporation, paid as brokerage fee, and another Sh480,000 from Airtel Kenya for offering 'non-existent services' to IEBC during the electioneering period.

The committee also recommended a thorough and independent audit of all the equipment in IEBC's possession.

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