AG blocking cash for vote kit, says poll chief - Daily Nation

Polls agency accuses AG of blocking cash for vote kit

Sunday October 21 2012

Interim Independent Electoral Commission of Kenya chairman Ahmed Issack Hassan. Photo/FILE

Interim Independent Electoral Commission of Kenya chairman Ahmed Issack Hassan. Photo/FILE 

By ISAAC ONGIRI [email protected]

Attorney-General Githu Muigai was on Sunday accused of holding up preparations for the election by refusing to authorise payment to a French company.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission said the registration of voters, which is two months behind schedule, remains in limbo until the AG gives Treasury the go-ahead to issues letters of credit (LC).

Until he does so, Biometric Voter Registration equipment cannot be delivered and no date can be set for the registration to begin.

IEBC chairman Ahmed Issack Hassan asked Mr Muigai to authorise the issuing of the LC to Safran Morpho, a French company appointed to supply 15,000 Biometric Voter Registration machines.

The company delivered 200 BVR kits and 1,500 fingerprint readers two weeks ago, but is now withholding 6,000 kits at a Paris warehouse after Kenya failed to honour its payment deadline.

Mr Hassan blamed the State Law Office for standing in the way of the supplies, saying voter registration plans have stalled due to the stand-off between the AG and the Treasury over authorisation. (READ: AG’s office ‘left out’ in voter listing kits deal)

“Until the AG agrees to authorise that agreement so that an LC can be issued, we cannot move forward. We cannot announce the start of voter registration if the situation remains the same,” Mr Hassan stated.

The Nation’s efforts to reach Prof Muigai were unsuccessful but a source close to his office referred reporters to a letter the AG had written to Treasury, raising issue with the transaction.

According to deadlines set by IEBC in August, voter registration was supposed to be carried out in September and October. However, the exercise was now set to start on November 14.

The commission has been forced to amend its timelines several times over the past three months due to the BVR crisis.

With only 133 days left to the March 4 election, it will take 60 days to complete a proper voter listing programme involving 18 million Kenyans with 30 days being set aside for the actual registration and another 30 days for voter inspection.

The frustrated elections boss revealed that he met Prof Muigai at the sidelines of the Mashujaa Day celebrations on Saturday and pleaded with him to save the country by signing the document.

Legal queries

The Treasury has paid Sh2.4 billion to Safran Morpho without the AG’s consent, but is now reluctant to release the balance of Sh3.8 billion after failing to convince the AG on the deal.

Last month, the AG wrote a 13-page letter raising several legal queries after a representative from his office notified him of grave legal flaws in the BVR procurement process.

The government stepped in to procure the equipment after IEBC’s own process failed because of internal wrangles. In the IEBC tender, the equipment was to cost Sh4.1 billion.

But when the government stepped in to single-source with the help of the Canadian government, the cost reportedly went up to Sh5 billion.

But Mr Hassan, who maintained that the AG’s letter was adequately responded to, said that Safran is ready to fly in the 6,000 kits immediately an approval is obtained.

He, however, dispelled fears that Kenya’s March 4 elections may be shifted, insisting that his team would resort to other available alternatives to ensure the elections are conducted according to the law.

Used its own money

And the Nation also established that a Memorandum of Understanding between Kenya and Canada on the supply of 15,000 BVR machines may have been breached after the October 18 deadline in which all the equipment was expected to have been supplied passed.

It has also emerged that Kenya may have used its own money to pay the Sh2.4 billion deposit to the French supplier though it was expected that a concessional loan reportedly obtained from Canada would have been used to fund the project.

On Sunday, Ikolomani MP Boni Khalwale and his Chepalungu counterpart Isaac Rutto raised concern that Kenya’s planned March 4 elections may not happen.