Jubilee politicians have asked ODM leader Raila Odinga to come clean over the controversial single-sourcing of a Sh3.8 billion elections management system to a French firm by the electoral commission.
Speaking in Malindi on Sunday, National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale and Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said owners of Safran were “close allies” of Mr Odinga, and that the former prime minister knows almost everything about the company, including how it first won another tender by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in 2013.
“We know those behind Safran. They are people very close to Odinga allies and we want to tell the IEBC that we are watching them,” said Mr Duale.
Mr Odinga, who addressed a news conference in Mombasa and a rally at Tononoka Grounds, stayed away from the controversy, but Suna East MP Junet Mohamed, who accompanied him, welcomed the award of the tender to Safran, saying Kenyans want a biometric register to be used in the August elections, and that it did not matter how the tender was issued.
On Friday the IEBC announced that it had resolved to directly procure the elections equipment from Safran, following the cancellation of a previous tender awarded to another French firm, Gemalto SA.
Commission chairman Wafula Chebukati said the move was driven by a number of reasons, including the fact that Gemalto SA had quoted Sh5.2 billion against the available budget of Sh3.8 billion.
Gemalto, he said, was also not going to meet the commission’s operation and legal timelines to manufacture, deliver, install and commission the system.
Also, “over 19 million voters had already been registered using the current BVR system”, and so “the next priority is to ensure that components of voter identification and results transmission are integrated with the existing voter registration database”, said IEBC.
Mr Chebukati said Safran was picked because “it had undertaken to deliver the technology within the statutory timelines” of May 10 this year.
However, political leaders have refused to buy the explanation. Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi said the commission “must come clear on how it settled on a company that is internationally known to be non-transparent”.
“We suspect underhand dealings in the whole process, which was shrouded in secrecy as all the procurement requirements were flouted,” he said on the day the government shied away from the controversy, with Secretary of Communication and State House Spokesman Manoah Esipisu saying IEBC will have to defend its decision in the court of public opinion.
“In terms of its record (Safran’s), I am unable to speak to that because I wasn’t really part of the decision making by IEBC,” he said during a press briefing in Nakuru.
Mr Mudavadi pointed out that in 2012, the firm was fined by a Paris court after being found guilty of bribery.
He was referring to a case in which the French company was fined 500,000 euros (Sh55 million) for bribing officials to secure a contract to print national ID cards in Nigeria.
Safran was at the time known as Sagem, before it merged with competitor Snecma in 2005.
However, in a statement issued on September 2012, Safran disagreed with the ruling saying it would appeal.
“Safran would like to point out that it is deeply attached to the strict respect of anti-corruption rules. The information given in the court showed in fact that no senior executives of the company was aware of the reported acts of corruption at the time they occurred.”
Our efforts to get comments from the IEBC over the matter were futile.
Kanu National Organising Secretary Abdulrahman Bafadhil said the party was “consulting on the action to take” against IEBC.
Reporting by Dave Opiyo, Collins Omullo and Wanderi Kamau in Nairobi; Caroline Wafula in Nakuru; and Kazungu Samuel and Charles Lwanga in Mombasa