Graft fears as IEBC seeks billions

Friday January 15 2016

From left: Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission vice chair Lilian Mahiri-Zaja, Vice CEO Betty Suguna, Chairman Isaac Hassan and CEO Ezra Chiloba launch election operation plan 2015-2017 at Intercontinental hotel in Nairobi on January 14, 2016.  PHOTO | JAMES EKWAM |

From left: Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission vice chair Lilian Mahiri-Zaja, Vice CEO Betty Suguna, Chairman Isaac Hassan and CEO Ezra Chiloba launch election operation plan 2015-2017 at Intercontinental hotel in Nairobi on January 14, 2016. PHOTO | JAMES EKWAM | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By JOHN NGIRACHU
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While the polls agency seeks Sh45 billion to finance the next General Election, the shadow of corruption hangs over it.

The vice has now come to be associated with the management of elections in Kenya.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) plans to spend Sh4.4 billion on voter registration, another Sh4.5 billion on electoral technologies, Sh2 billion on logistics and Sh2.1 billion on voting, which includes ballot papers and other materials.

This means there will be procurement contracts worth Sh13 billion up for grabs, and with surveys putting tendering fraud as Kenya’s fastest growing economic crime, this will need to be watched closely.

The electoral agency has been tainted with corruption, even as it mutated from the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC).

PRINTING COMPANY FINED

A week ago, Smith and Ouzman Ltd, a British company, was fined £2.2 million (Sh329.3 million) after its employees were convicted of paying bribes to Kenyan officials to win contracts for the printing of ballot papers.

The imposition of the fine marked the last stage, in Britain, of a scandal that remained unknown to Kenyans until late 2014, when the Serious Fraud Office put together a 65-page affidavit in its case against officials of the printing firm.

In the case, Christopher Smith, along with his son Nicholas Smith, were handed 18-month and three-year jail terms respectively for bribing officers of the IIEC.

Among those implicated in the scam were current IEBC boss Ahmed Issack Hassan, who also chaired the IIEC.

The funds are said to have been channelled through Mr Trevy James Oyombra.

So brazen were IIEC employees that Mr Oyombra was given copies of quotations made by competing firms and would show the polls agency’s employees how to disqualify them from tenders.

DENIED INVOLVEMENT

Mr Hassan has denied involvement in the matter, which has been under investigation by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, but his presence at the IEBC continues to annoy the Opposition.

Cord leader Raila Odinga and other members of the Opposition have repeatedly stated their lack of confidence in the IEBC under Mr Hassan.

Before Kenyans ever got wind of the case in London, another scam at the IEBC played out in public as the agency blundered its way through the procurement of kits for the registration of voters before the 2013 General Election.

The Public Accounts Committee asked the Auditor-General to carry out a special audit and the results were stunning.

The auditor reported that top officers at the IEBC, the Treasury and the Government allowed the purchase of biometric voter registration kits to be financed through an external commercial loan yet they could have been paid for from internal sources.