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Poll crisis looms as tender wars threaten IEBC preparedness

By Jacob Ng'etich | December 2nd 2021

An IEBC voting registration/confirmation centre at Kibera Primary school, Kibra constituency, Nairobi county. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

"Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong," goes a popular adage. Whether by design or by default, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission's (IEBC) preparation for the 2022 General Election seems to be going awry dogged by multi-billion shilling tenders wars.

The current quagmire mirrors a similar script prior to the 2013 and 2017 polls where some equipment arrived a day after the exercise.

The polls agency's plan was to have procured the printing of ballot boxes and acquisition of technology to run Kenya's transition elections in August 2022, twelve months to D-Day.

However, tender wars at the electoral agency threaten to derail the tight election timelines it must beat to ensure a fair and credible process.

Disgruntled parties who bid and missed out will formally lodge appeals in court this week further denying the agency enough time.

The tender wars put the Wafula Chebukati-led commission in a precarious situation months to election and reflect back to 2017 where ballot tender was cancelled by courts a month to election.

Inadvertently, the court battles will force IEBC to conduct an expensive election as they may have to do direct procurement to beat stipulated deadlines.

Both the Kenya Integrated Electoral Management System (KIEMS) and ballot papers printing are two integral components of the election and delay in procuring of the two could affect quality of the August 9th exercise.

Kiems kit tender include supply, delivery, installation, testing, commissioning, support and maintenance of software and hardware equipment and accessories for the running of the election and a winner of tender would need time to prepare and ensure no gaps that could lead to the challenge of the polls.

The transmission of results is key to the electoral process and in 2017 caused the nullification of the presidential election based solely on the issue of transmission.

The electoral laws are being amended and the Bill is in Parliament. Some amendments will definitely touch on transmission.

Election Observation Group (ELOG) National Coordinator Mulle Musau said IEBC should anticipate and preempt some legal loopholes given that they have an entire legal department.

"Some of the issues coming up like local vendors denied an opportunity are some of the mistakes that make one wonder if polls agency were not doing due diligence, which might make one think that they were designing the tenders to fail, I do not understand why the legal department did not see the loopholes," said Musau.

Musau said the country was likely to experience the last minute rushed procurement like it happened in 2013 and 2017 where the electoral agency was forced to do direct procurement.

"The current legal challenges will eventually force IEBC to do direct tendering after when they no longer have enough time. The problem with direct procurement is the interests and corruption that come with it. We wil after election be talking about the graft their after like in 2013 and 2017," said Musau.        

Notably, IEBC has not done due diligence on the existing 30,000 kits to determine their condition. They have not even allocated a budget for the verification of the condition of the existing kits. Worse still, the polls agency IEBC has only provided a budget for the purchase of an additional 10,000 kits in the new tender.

However, in their budget released in September, there was not allocation on the migration of data from existing kits to the newly purchased kits.

Worse still, the IEBC has not provided a budget for purchase of software and proprietary licences from the previous supplier kits so as to migrate the data to the new supplier.

Sources who sought anonymity have indicated that the courts are expected to consolidate all IEBC cases from all aggrieved vendors for inter parties hearing this Friday.

The firms are challenging the award of supply of KIEMS kits to Dutch firm Smartmatic and ballot printing tender awarded to a Greek firm Inform P Lykos Holdings. 

Already the tender on the printing of ballot papers for the 9th August 2022 general election is being fought at the court of appeal where one of the disgruntled supply challenged the award of the tender to the Greek.

Inform P Lykos Holdings had been picked from a pool of 12 firms that had bided for the supply of 138 ballot papers for 23million voters participating in electing 6 positions.

The a three-year open international tender would also see the firm provide election result declaration forms to be used at the constituency, county and national tallying centre.

Inform P Lykos Holdings had beat firms in the tender included Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing LLC, United Printing and Publishing LLC and Masar Printing and Publishing and Kenya’s Ellams Products Limited and Africa Infrastructure Development Company.

Others are United Kingdom’s Go Inspire Solutions and TALL Security Print Limited, UNIPINT, a division of Insidedata (South) PTY LTD, Aerovote Security Print and Electoral Supplies (Ghana), Seshaasai Business Forms PVT Ltd (India) and Kwanginsa Company Ltd (South Korea).

Already self styled public litigant Okiya Omtatah has moved to court to challenge the award of ballot printing papers to Greek firm.

The petitioner Risk Africa Innovatis Limited, challenging the Smartmatic awarded KIEMS tender are arguing that the data migration was not budgeted for at the time the tender was floated.

Also the Risk Africa Innovatis Limited claims the procurement was not done with fully constituted commission as there were only three members at the time.

The petitioners also question the integrity of the Smartmatic saying the company left other jurisdictions under a cloud including Philippines, Venezuela, Uganda , Nigeria and US.

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