It was a normal tender when the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission invited bids on February 15.
However over time, the Sh3.9 billion biometric voter registration (BVR) kits tender has mutated into a dangerous balloon, capable of blowing offshore the high expectations of Kenyans and international community of a fraud-free General Election.
IEBC chairman Ahmed Isaack Hassan blames the whole saga, that has forced the government to step in and help procure the registration kits, on the rigours of the procurement laws, and political and bidder rivalry.
But politicians, MPs, the Executive, the clergy and the civil society do not buy Mr Hassan’s arguments, instead pointing fingers at the divisions in the commission he heads for the controversy that could easily trigger chaos similar to the one that followed the December 2007 elections.
Says Mr Hassan: “The commission emphasises that its preferred option for registration has always been biometric voter registration. However, the acquisition of BVR kits was frustrated by cumbersome procurement laws and procedures, as well as political and vendor rivalry.”
Perhaps not, Mr chairman.
Let’s retrace the process, from the beginning up to July 23, 2012, when the commission cancelled the tender.
At the close of the tender on March 26, the commission had received a total of 29 bidders which were passed to the evaluation committee made up of 10 members drawn from the IEBC, Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), and UN Development Programme. Out of the 29 bidders, 18 were disqualified at the preliminary stages, with 11 going to the evaluation stage.
Four companies — 4G Identity Solution, Systems Integrated Limited (Symphony), Face Technology and On Track Innovations — were to be evaluated for their financial capability. On April 29, the evaluation committee recommended 4G Identity Solutions as the lowest evaluated bidder at Sh3.73 billion.
In May, an IEBC team visited India to evaluate 4G Identity Solutions.
In the first week of June, IEBC received information from the Foreign Affairs ministry to the effect that there was an order suspending 4G Identity Solutions from operating by the Unique Identification Authority of India for non-compliance to rules.
Acting on this information, the IEBC on June 19, announced that it was rejecting 4G Identity Solutions and ordered due diligence on Symphony.
The tender committee had recommended Face Technology as the viable option, but the company was rejected as it came in third and had quoted a figure that was Sh810 million above the IEBC budget.
IEBC chief executive officer James Oswago questioned the decision in a letter dated July 6, 2012, to the secretary of the tender committee.
“How do we award a quotation nearly Sh1 billion above budget? On what basis or premise do you negotiate such a difference and at what point, and where is the guarantee or indication that the vendor can discount their quote within the budget? And, if we do this, why not extend the same to other vendors?” he asked.
And when documents were leaked to the media, Mr Oswago did not hesitate to blame them on the team, falling short of calling them “rotten”.
He said: “Your sources are rotten and they are the ones leaking the documents, tainting the reputation of the commission which has some very good people in its employment.” It was wrong, he said, to blame the entire commission for the mistakes of a few people who “broke every procurement rule”.
The tender committee, chaired by Ms Praxedees Tororey, resigned in a huff and a new team led by Ms Immaculate Kassait was named.
Among the issues the IEBC sought to establish is whether Symphony has the financial and technical ability to deliver the 9,750 kits on time, as well as train the commission’s registration clerks.
The winner of the tender is to deliver about 14 equipment including batteries, laptops, inverters, cameras, scanners and solar panels.
Symphony had applied for the tender as a consortium with a German company — Dermalog — who are experts in fingerprint identification and who are to offer the technical core components of the system, including fingerprints and solar solution.
The Kassait team also kicked out Symphony on grounds that they supplied inaccurate information in its Confidential Business Questionnaire.
The committee members resolved that the information provided by the company were inconsistent with those the commission received from the company’s external auditors, public secretaries and a letter from the Registrar of Companies.
“Secure Tech, which is one of the companies that Symphony is relying on, was unable to meet the expectation of the Ministry of Immigration on the Integrated Population Registration System (IPRS) project,” read the report in part.
The Tororey team had also questioned a consortium agreement that Symphony indicated it would rely on to deliver the required BVR solution.
“MS System Integration Limited is relying heavily on two companies — Demalog and Secure Tech. Demalog and Secure Tech are providing two critical components of the project and yet IEBC has no tendering agreement with the two,” the committee said.
Further Ms Kassait’s team said that Symphony, Secure Tech and Demarlog have never implemented any activity of such a magnitude anywhere in the world.
Said the report: “There is no evidence that the consortium agreement between the three companies is binding in law. Thus in case of default by any of the two parties, Demarlog and Secure Tech, the commission could be exposed to risks.”
In rejecting Symphony, the Kassait team recommended that the commission renegotiates for additional funds so as to conduct due diligence on the third lowest bidder Face Technologies.
The government has, however, stepped in and its team was in talks with the commission last evening to agree on the criteria they will use to purchase the BVR kits.
Reports by Bernard Namunane, Isaac Ongiri and Oliver Mathenge