The government is on the verge of awarding a secret restricted tender for procurement of a Sh3 billion digital registration system that will create a national population register.
The move, classified as top secret, is likely to revive ghosts of the multi-billion-shilling Anglo Leasing scandal in which various security tenders that were not publicly advertised ended up as monumental swindles.
It was not clear on Thursday why a service to collect biometric information is being treated as a state secret, but in the past secrecy has been used as a cover for corruption. The Ministry of Interior yesterday promised to give more information on the matter today.
But even before the tender — which closed on Tuesday — is declared, sources say some senior officials from Dr Fred Matiang’i’s Ministry of Internal Security and Coordination of National Government — which is implementing the project — and those from the Ministry of Information and Communications, headed by Mr Joe Mucheru, are already bickering over control of the lucrative venture.
The three companies asked to place their bids are Idemia, Coppernic and Credence ID, and were identified through “desk research”, according to a source familiar with the procurement process so far.
Documents indicate that prices “shall be fixed after negotiation”, and that “negotiations shall be carried out before the contract is awarded”, giving government technocrats a lot of wiggle room in executing the tender.
Sources told the Nation yesterday that one of the companies has been grumbling that the tender was designed to favour a competitor. The firm points out that two items — LED lighting integrated with software trigger, and mobile device management — were included as part of the technical specifications, and that at the moment only one of the companies invited to tender has gadgets that fit the design.
Kenya’s quest for a national register has been pending for years, bogged by incessant procurement scandals and court cases, and two of the invited companies are new entrants into the murky scene.
Idemia has been doing business in Kenya for years and is a merger of Oberthur Technologies (OT) and Safran Identity & Security (Morpho), which supplied the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission with the Sh3.8 billion KIEMS kits used to biometrically identify voters during last year’s elections.
Before the truce between opposition leader Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta, Idemia had sued Mr Odinga, former Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, and Ford-Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula for defamation for suggesting it had aided the mismanagement of last year’s elections. It has since withdrawn the suit.
The other company is the French-based Coppernic, known for the provision of hardware and software that captures biometric and fingerprint signatures. The company, led by Peter O’Neil, was founded in 2008 by senior engineers of Psion, a listed British company.
Also allowed to place a bid is Credence ID from California. It is led by Mr Bruce Hanson, a former chief operating officer at L-1 Identity Solutions who contributed to the sale of the company to Safran Morpho. Mr Hanson holds a US-government Top Secret clearance, which allows him access to data that affects national security, counterterrorism, counter-intelligence, and other highly sensitive material.
The national register will not only bring all personal information scattered across various institutions and entities under one system, but also capture details of national IDs, personal identification numbers (PIN), dates of birth, nuclear family, biometrics, contact information and all other information held by various government bodies. It will also eliminate the proliferation of fake IDs.
While the government is at liberty to do limited tendering, pundits say competitive tendering forces various suppliers to compete and, in the end, the taxpayer gets value for money.
The law provides that restricted tendering can only be done if the expertise is limited to only a few contractors and if the time and cost required to examine a large number of tenders is disproportionate to the value of goods.
Already, head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua has, in a June 18 letter to all Cabinet Secretaries, frozen all data registration for the next four months “to consolidate all resources and carry out an intensive data collection exercise”.
“The purpose of this freeze is to consolidate all resources and carry out an intensive data collection exercise that will capture all parameters that will be available to ministries, departments and agencies,” says Mr Kinyua.
Known as the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS), the project will have up-to-date citizen information from birth to death and will help detect impersonators and frauds. It will also allow the sharing of data across departments and agencies.
It is expected that by next year, Kenyans will have digital IDs whose special features will capture data on health insurance, social security, taxation and driving licence details.