IEBC calls meeting with candidates in bid to end tender row

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has invited presidential candidates for a meeting tomorrow to deliberate on the way forward following Friday’s nullification of the contract for printing presidential election ballots.

It has also emerged that the agency will abide by the ruling.

On Saturday, IEBC Chairperson Wafula Chebukati asked Kenyans to submit their views by Tuesday ahead of a public hearing the following day.

“The commission has reflected on the judgment of the High Court on procurement of ballot papers for presidential election and resolved to hold a meeting with presidential candidates on July 10 at 11 am,” Mr Chebukati said at a hurriedly arranged press conference at IEBC’s Anniversary Towers offices.

CLEAR INTERPRETATION

But even as IEBC will be engaging the candidates and Kenyans, the commission said it would proceed with the appeal against the ruling to get a clear interpretation of public participation in procurement.

“The contract for the presidential ballot papers was nullified on the basis of lack of public participation,” Mr Chebukati said.

“This is a grey area affecting not just the commission but all public institutions. We will be appealing to get a clarification on the process of engaging the public because there is neither a legislative framework nor policy guidelines in place.”

Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe said the party’s candidate Uhuru Kenyatta had no problem with IEBC’s decision.

“We are bound to attend the meeting. Either the candidate in person or a representative will be there. That is what the ruling said and we will abide by it,” Mr Murathe said.

‘WELCOME’ AGAIN

He added that while the High Court nullified the contract to Al Ghurair on the basis of lack of public participation, the judges dismissed Nasa’s claims that the tender had been influenced by Mr Kenyatta in collusion with IEBC technical staff.

“In fact, Al Ghurair is welcome to participate once IEBC invites fresh bids,” Mr Murathe said.

Mr Salim Lone, the communication chief of Nasa candidate Mr Raila Odinga said: “Mr Odinga has not received the IEBC invitation but he has no qualms about the meeting.”

The court dismissed Nasa’s allegation of collusion, criticising the opposition for relying on nothing else other than newspaper cuttings.

WITH ‘SHOCK’

Mr Chebukati’s statement comes as the Nation learned that the ruling was received with “shock” within the commission.

“The reason for the cancellation has nothing to do with technical details or Nasa’s original complaint. The ramifications of that on tenders awarded in the country are huge,” a commission insider said in confidence.

During the meetings with presidential candidates and the public, IEBC will explore the options of either picking a new printer or retaining Al Ghurair should the participants be convinced.

According to Dr Ekuru Aukot, the Thirdway Alliance Kenya presidential candidate whose argument was the basis for the nullification of the ballot papers printing tender, the commission had the mandate to even pick a local company to do the job.

‘THE SAME’

He cited other security printing done locally like money printing by De La Rue and the making of academic certificates.

“If we are able to do security printing at home such as money and examination certificates, why can’t we do the same for ballot papers? Look at the amount we are paying Al Ghurair. That money could have helped the local economy,” Dr Aukot said.

The proposal, however, remains contentious given the level of political and ethnic suspicions in the country.

High Court Judges George Odunga, Joel Ngugi and John Mativo directed IEBC to tender for the presidential ballot papers afresh because the electoral commission had failed to engage all the presidential candidates and the public in awarding the contract to Al Ghurair.

‘BE CLEAR’

“We must point out that while we cannot tell IEBC how to fashion its programmes of public participation, the commission must be clear that the right to be involved, which we have held is a corollary to the exercise of Article 38 rights of the citizenry, are owed to Kenyans and not just to declared presidential aspirants,” the judges said in the landmark ruling.

“In this particular case, considering the above principles and the material before us, we are not satisfied that there was sufficient public participation to meet the constitutional threshold.”

On the other hand, they allowed Al Ghurair to carry on with printing of ballot papers for governor, Senate, National Assembly, woman representative and members of county assembly.

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