The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission intended to buy Sh3.9 billion worth of equipment to enable it use fingerprints and facial imagery to identify voters.
However, whereas the system is perfect for eliminating impersonation, multiple voting and other forms of fraud that were common during the last election, the commission was unable to procure it because of what are said to be boardroom wars between commissioners and the secretariat.
The commission said it plans to register 18 million voters, even as it grapples with the risks posed by the manual registration system.
For the first time, Kenyans will not be required to go to the polling stations with a voter’s card in order to cast their votes.
The commission formally cancelled the biometric voter registration tender and said it will embark on the exercise immediately after the by-elections set for September 17 in Ndhiwa, Kajiado North and Kangema constituencies.
It also moved to assure Kenyans of its determination to supervise a free, fair and open election without the biometric system, seeking to allay fears of a repeat of the errors discovered in the voter’s roll in 2007 by the Kriegler commission.
IEBC chief executive James Oswago said they will register all voters afresh, issue them with new voter’s cards and in the process rid the current register of ghost voters.
“We will register all the 12 million Kenyans who had been enrolled before the referendum and six million new voters will also be given an opportunity to register,” he said on phone.
The 12.4 million voters were registered by the then Interim Independent Electoral Commission in preparation for 2010 referendum on the new Constitution.
Out of the 12.4 million, 1.5 million in 18 constituencies were registered electronically using the biometric voter registration system.
Commission chairman Ahmed Issack Hassan, as he formally cancelled the controversial tender which was gradually eroding the confidence of Kenyans in the IEBC, said they will recruit a large number of registration clerks and have them work for long hours to meet the timelines.
He said the tender was cancelled because of the controversy surrounding it and said they will use the manual system, also known as the Optical Mark Readers system, which they applied during the referendum and in the 12 by-elections that have been held after the 2007 elections.
Politicians and the civil society have exerted pressure on the commission to cancel the tender and restart the process to give Kenyans confidence that the IEBC will deliver a free and fair election.
Four companies — 4G Identity Solutions, Symphony, Face Technology and On Track Innovations — had been shortlisted as the front runners for the tender, which involved the supply of 9,700 registration kits.
Face Technology and On Track Innovations were later dropped. The multi-billion shilling tender sparked an intensive boardroom war at the IEBC pitting the commissioners against the secretariat.
Mr Hassan said: “We assure Kenyans that OMR voter register was used in the 2010 Referendum, in all 12 by-elections and 50 civic wards. This register with over 12.4 million voters is valid.
“The commission intends to employ a larger number of clerks, for longer periods during the voter registration exercise. The electronic voter registration will, however, continue to be used where they were piloted.”
The commission said it will deploy large servers to clean the voters’ register and detect duplications that could come out of scanning.
They will also bring on board the National Registration Bureau to help register more voters, and the births and deaths registrar to get rid of ghost and dead voters.
Voters who wish to transfer to other polling stations will also be registered at the same time.
To ensure transparency, Mr Hassan said, they will work closely with political parties and the civil society during the registration exercise and at the inspection level.
“The process of guaranteeing voter register integrity shall be open and collaborative,” he said.
He was categorical that the mistakes of 2007 will not be repeated, arguing that the laws on elections had become more punitive and the staff of the commission were now more accountable than before.
“We will put in place a robust team to manage the elections during the voting stage and also at tallying centres. Kenyans should know the laws have changed and they come with punitive consequences,” he said.
The Kriegler commission, which inquired into the anomalies during the elections, found that there were 1.2 million dead voters on the voters’ register.
Among the shortcomings, it found were that only 71 per cent of the eligible voters were registered while the youth, who formed the largest percentage of voters, were under-registered.
The manual system, the report said, was open to manipulation, loss of data and duplication.
In spite of the assurance, Kenyans in the diaspora smelt a rat and rushed to court to file a case under a certificate of urgency to compel the commission to electronically register them and allow them to cast their vote for parliamentary, senator and other seats and not the presidency alone.
The hearing date was set for next month.