On the issue of biometric equipment from Canada, we were badly duped

Tuesday October 30 2012

 

By JAINDI KISERO

I am a little apprehensive about the manner in which the so-called government-to-government deal under which we are buying the technology we shall use to register voters was negotiated and concluded.

By paying the vendor in full for the technology and equipment – before receiving the goods and services – we have left ourselves at the mercy and precarious benevolence of these foreign institutions.

What if they fail to supply the biometric kit on time? What recourse do we have in the event that the equipment we are given by Safran Morpho does not work?

Mark you, the kit we are buying is not coming here already assembled. It will be coming in parts, to be assembled and integrated here in Nairobi. How shall we sanction the supplier in case of a glitch?

I read somewhere how there had been hue and cry in Nigeria when on the first day of electronic voter registration the machines rejected the fingerprints of the former president of that country, Mr Olusegun Obasanjo.

With this whole debacle playing out in the full view of television cameramen, the public debut of the electronic voter registration system turned into a public relations disaster for the Independent National Election Commission.

A few weeks later, there was even more controversy when the machines could not recognise and process the fingerprints of the president of the Senate, Mr David Mark, and his wife.

The only mitigating factor in our case is the fact that we have not signed any agreement with a private company which can disappear into thin air.

The signatory to the commercial agreement is the Canada Commercial Corporation, which is a Crown corporation of the government of Canada.

Thus, in the event we have problems with the kit’s performance, the compensation will have to come from the government of Canada.

What was the hullabaloo about the so-called government-to-government procurement? In the initial stages, the impression given to the public was that the Canadians would give us money to purchase the kit.

The reason we did not make too much noise when the government discontinued the IEBC procurement process was because we all believed that the Canadians were going to get us a cheaper deal.

We were duped. Government-to-government procurement deals by countries of the North are primarily meant to boost their exports.

Indeed, the interest of the government of Canada in this deal was to give business opportunities to the Canadian Commercial Corporation and Export Development Corporation – the two entities involved in the transaction.

By taking the government-to-government route, we gave away our right to procure the kits from the most competitive bidder. Imagine the sense of unfairness which companies that participated in the open bidding process now feel. 

You spend millions of shillings preparing bid documents, travel and hotel accommodation and negotiating with the suppliers of the software only to be told that the process has been cancelled.

Later, you learn that a competitor who had presented an offer which was patently inferior to what you had offered during the open tender is the one that eventually clinched the deal.

We bungled a transparent process that had given us competitive prices and ended up with an opaque process that is going to force us to buy the kits expensively. All in the name of a government-to-government deal.

In any event, the IEBC tender should have been treated as a price discovery process. We should have forced the Canadians to give us a price that reflects what the IEBC had achieved in the open tender.

And what did we get from the Canadians? Very little. First, the Commercial Corporation of Canada procured for us Safran Morpho and Standard Chartered Bank of London.

Secondly, the Export Development Corporation of Canada gave us a guarantee to allow us to borrow from Standard Chartered of London at cheaper rates.

The two Canadian entities must be paid for their services. These government-to-government procurement deals are a big con.