The fate of the next General Election date was thrown into confusion on Monday following a turf war at the electoral commission over the controversial biometric voter registration tender.
After a day-long meeting chaired by Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) boss Ahmed Issack Hassan and the secretariat to discuss the matter that has captured public attention, an advert signed by chief executive officer James Oswago was dispatched to media houses cancelling the Sh3.9 billion tender.
However, a commissioner who attended the meeting, but sought anonymity, said the decision to cancel the tender was not arrived at unanimously, signalling tension between the commission and the secretariat.
Before the advert could be placed on the pages, a section of the IEBC called to stop it from running.
In the advert, Mr Oswago had stated tersely: “This is to inform all the bidders who participated in the above tender that the procurement process has been terminated.”
Were the cancellation to stay, it would have confirmed that the IEBC will turn to the current registration equipment, a situation which Mr Hassan last week described as the “worst scenario” if there were delays in awarding the tender.
“Once we have awarded the tender we can be able to manipulate and use the software and configure our current equipment and they can be deployed to the 1,450 wards so that we have at least one equipment per ward,” he said, adding:
“That is now the worst case scenario because we are hoping to get the equipment on time.”
The IEBC has the task of registering voters afresh following the creation of 80 new constituencies in preparation for the elections.
IEBC’s tentative timetable requires voter registration to start next month, followed by the compilation of the register in September. Voters were to inspect the register in October with the final voters’ roll being finalised in November.
The failure to award the tender also raised doubts as to whether the commission will adequately register its projected 18 million voters in time for the elections.
Given that the IEBC has only 1,500 registration kits in its stock, it raises fear that they could revert to manual registration.
The commission is supposed to conclude the registration of voters 90 days to the date of elections.
The IEBC extended the tender period that lapsed last week by 30 days in the hope that the controversy surrounding it would have been concluded and the tender awarded.
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 short-listed 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 tender sparked an intensive boardroom war at the IEBC.