The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is putting on a brave face amid a procurement storm, as the opposition National Super Alliance (Nasa) on Saturday threatened to move to court to stop the award of the ballot paper printing tender to Dubai’s Al Ghurair.
With just 50 days to the elections, Nasa’s threat could create a fresh challenge as IEBC races against time in preparations for the August 8 elections.
On Saturday, IEBC CEO Ezra Chiloba, who was among the staff mentioned by Nasa of allegedly influencing the award to Al Ghurair, told the Nation the commission’s visit to the Dubai printing company’s facilities is still on despite Jubilee and Nasa indicating that they won’t send representatives to the trip scheduled for June 22.
“The IEBC will proceed as planned and will communicate the list of stakeholders participating,” said Mr Chiloba in an interview.
Besides political parties with presidential candidates, IEBC has invited representatives from civil society, non-governmental organisations, faith-based organisations, Office of the Registrar of Political Parties and media representatives.
As IEBC was fighting to restore confidence in its preparations, Nasa has threatened to challenge the electoral commission’s decision to award the Sh2.5 billion tender to the Dubai company.
Senator James Orengo, who is a member of Nasa presidential campaign team, and Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi said they would do “everything within their power”, including going to the highest court in the land, to challenge IEBC’s decision to award the tender to Al Ghurair.
“We will not take this matter lightly. We will challenge it to the end and ensure due process is followed and Kenyans are given a free and fair election,” said Mr Orengo.
Mr Orengo, who was speaking on Saturday at Ulumba Village in Ugunja Sub-County during the burial of his uncle Evans Orengo, echoed earlier allegations that President Uhuru Kenyatta pushed for the award of the tender.
Jubilee has denied the claim with Majority Leader in the National Assembly Aden Duale alleging that opposition flagbearer Raila Odinga favoured South Africa’s Paarl Media for personal reasons.
On his part, Mr Wandayi said the refusal by the IEBC to terminate the tender despite reservations from various quarters was worrying.
The legislator asked independent bodies like United Nations, the European Union and the African Union to intervene to assure Kenyans of a free, fair and transparent election.
“We suspect the IEBC’s decision to award the tender to Al Ghurair.
IEBC should conduct itself in a professional manner by ensuring the elections are fair.
If IEBC retains Al Ghurair, we need the intervention of international institutions to assure Kenyans of credible elections,” said Mr Wandayi.
The push back by Mr Chiloba against the integrity allegations follows a pattern similar to that of the chairman Wafula Chebukati who, after meeting the presidential candidates and their representatives on Thursday, said the award of the contract to Al Ghurair was final and IEBC will not go back to tender afresh.
“The commission reckons that we may not all agree on decisions that are key for the success of the coming election.
However, the commission is bound by the provisions of Article 249 of the Constitution which obligates it to protect the sovereignty of the people of Kenya.
In doing so, the commission is only subject to the Constitution and the law and is not subject to direction or control by any person or authority,” Mr Chebukati had said.
The issue of the ballot papers tender was raised by Mr Odinga on Wednesday as he addressed the National Elections Conference at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi.
The tender has been contentious since last year after it was initially awarded to the Dubai company.
First, there was an unsuccessful appeal at the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board (PPARB) before the opposition Cord convinced the High Court to cancel the award and ask IEBC to start the process afresh.
Mr Odinga stated the awarding of the ballot paper printing tender to Dubai’s Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing had been influenced by Jubilee in collusion with some technical staff at the IEBC.
“Owners of this firm hosted senior Jubilee officials in Dubai in February last year during which the ballot printing tender was discussed.
Officials of the firm were in Kenya in October 2016 as heads of the business delegation brought by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce during which they held further talks on this contract with Jubilee officials. That’s how IEBC became hell-bent on delivering the printing tender to Al Ghurair,” Mr Odinga had said.
Mr Odinga’s allegations, which have been backed up Chairman of Nasa National Campaign Committee Musalia Mudavadi, have rattled commissioners and senior staff at the secretariat.
The IEBC top brass have been holding long crisis meetings to find the best way out of the situation even as they maintain they will not be subject to direction or control by any person or authority.
The meetings started as soon as Mr Odinga finished delivering his remarks at the conference when top IEBC brass led by Mr Chebukati and Mr Chiloba left for what some commission insiders said was a meeting to discuss the allegations.
In an effort to salvage its credibility amidst the swirling accusations against its officials, the commission has also released a list of items those invited to accompany IEBC to Dubai should pay attention to.
BALLOT PAPER CONTROLS
Dubbed the “Ballot paper Design and Controls”, IEBC says the ballot paper controls will consist of seven key elements: Security features, polling station ballot allocation, production quality control, packing, storage and transport security arrangements, material transfer and ballot issuing in the polling station.
“In order to prevent production of counterfeit ballot papers, the IEBC has included in its specifications for ballot papers the following security features: Generic watermark, two UV security features, anti-copy feature, micro text, embossing and tampered serialisation,” the commission said.
Responding to the accusations that he had attended a meeting at State House Nairobi where President Uhuru Kenyatta and Al Ghurair’s CEO Aziz Al Ghurair was present, Mr Chiloba denied any knowledge of the meeting.
“Allegations of the visit to State House are baseless, malicious and defamatory,” Mr Chiloba told the Nation.
MT KENYA FOUNDATION
Nasa had claimed that director of Election Operations and Voter Registration Immaculate Kasait, who the alliance describes as “a member of a Jubilee-leaning organisation known as the Mt Kenya Foundation,” had accompanied Mr Chiloba to the State House meeting following summons by President Kenyatta.
He further termed as “unfortunate” the perception the ballot paper printing tender row had created.
“At no point has the commission ignored anyone. That is why we reach out to all the players to discuss issues openly. Lots of issues are as a result of lack of understanding and sometimes because of other actors’ political expediency.
Our role is to be faithful to the Constitution even as we seek to instil clarity and confidence in the electoral process,” he said.
Despite publicly putting on a brave face, IEBC is yet to answer some critical questions relating to how the ballot paper printing tender was handled.
These include: Why did IEBC fail to re-advertise the tender as directed by court from February? Why did IEBC wait until Al Ghurair lost the case at Court of Appeal in April then begin restricted tendering yet there was no order barring it from proceeding to invite fresh bids?
How did Rosecate Promotions, the company who went on to challenge before the PPARB the process on the grounds that IEBC had flouted its own rules guiding the tender, come on board yet it had not been invited to place a bid during the restricted tendering?
PPARB has also been on the spot over its decision on the cancellation of a restricted tender.
Additional reporting by Nelcon Odhiambo