IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati(C) with Commissioner Dr.Roselyn Akombe(L) and CEO Ezra Chiloba address a press conference at their office in Nairobi over the ballot papers tender. (Photo: Boniface Okendo/standard)
Officials of the electoral body bent over backwards to award the Sh2.5 billion ballot paper tender to the Dubai firm, raising fresh questions on the motivation.
It now emerges that Kenyans may be paying more than double the prices paid for a single ballot paper in both Uganda and Tanzania.
A review of the actions of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) indicates that Al Ghurair may have been a favourite bidder from the start.
Al Ghurair was the only firm that was considered to have the capacity to deliver the voting material since the tender was initially floated, and it almost miraculously survived every hurdle since October last year.
The award has raised a political storm in the past week with accusations and counter-accusations now threatening the upcoming polls after the Opposition coalition promised to challenge the tender award in court.
Jubilee Party has defended the IEBC’s award, saying the Opposition was rooting for an unsuccessful South African bidder. Its Secretary General Raphael Tuju said the Al Ghurair official who visited Kenya did so in his personal capacity as a member of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce.
Yesterday, Paarl Media, the South African firm dragged into the saga by Jubilee as being fronted by NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga to clinch the tender denied ever meeting him.
Ben Sachs, Business Development Manager of Paarl Media, claimed he never met Raila or any Opposition leader to seek help in securing the printing contract.
“It is all lies,” Sachs said when contacted by the Saturday Standard. “I have never met Raila Odinga as I have read in the news.”
He said he was only in Kenya in November last year for 12 days, when his firm appealed the decision to award the deal to Al Ghurair at the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board (PPOA) but left after losing the case.
“I can produce my passport and it can show that I was in Kenya only in November last year and not 2015,” he said. National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale had also claimed that Raila had flown to South Africa to meet Sachs and his team where the Opposition chief was promised Sh1 billion funding for his campaign. Duale is yet to back his claim.
And in a fresh twist to the controversy, the Opposition coalition said it would be moving to court to seek a reversal of the printing contract awarded to Al Ghurair by the IEBC.
NASA principals Moses Wetang’ula and Musalia Mudavadi said that they had more information to show the tender was awarded courtesy of the Government’s influence, a proposition that they were ready to defend in court.
“We will ensure that Al Ghurair does not do the (printing) work because they did not win the tender in a fair way,” said Wetang’ula.
Mr Mudavadi claimed that the IEBC was not prepared to deliver a free, fair and credible election.
On Thursday, another presidential candidate had urged the IEBC to cancel the tender given the level of mistrust they had with the firm.
Third Way presidential candidate Ekuru Aukot said the party will write to the United Nations inviting them to prepare to possibly run the election since they no longer trust the IEBC. But on the campaign trail, President Kenyatta and his deputy hit at the Opposition’s stance on the matter maintaining that they want to derail the elections which are now slightly more than 50 days away.
“We know they are now scared of facing us in the August election,” he said in Bomet. “Now they are planning on how they can get us back to a government of nusu mkate. We want to tell them that the election dates will not be moved and we will beat them even if a firm of their choice prints the ballot papers,” said the head of state.
IEBC has defended its award, saying Al Ghurair has been delivering voting material used in the past by-elections since 2014. The contract negotiations between the IEBC and Al Ghurair were conducted by CEO Ezra Chiloba and Lakshman Ganapathy on behalf of Al Ghurair. The sequence of events surrounding the procurement process, including battles in the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board (PPARB), fueled the claims of bribery as claimed by the Opposition.
Al Ghurair was selected through single-sourcing last week following massive delays occasioned by court cases, twice at the High Court and at the Court of Appeal. IEBC first awarded Al Ghurair the tender for the supply and delivery for ballot papers, declaration forms and result declaration forms in October last year, before one bidder challenged the fairness contract.
It would mark the start of a roller-coaster of events that have culminated in the selection of Al Ghurair in a largely opaque manner.