The production of the ballot papers by the Dubai-based Al-Ghurair printing firm will start by the end of this week, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has said.
IEBC Chief Executive Ezra Chiloba, in an interview at NTV on Tuesday night, said that the commission is already running late in its timelines of the production of the 120 million ballot papers to be used in the high-stakes August 8 general election.
“We just approved the list of candidates in the elections. We are submitting the ballot paper proofs by the end of this week. Production has to start by the end of this week. The first delivery has to start by July 25, and the last batch on August 2,” Mr Chiloba said in the interview.
National Super Alliance (Nasa) presidential candidate Raila Odinga and Catholic Bishops have called for the cancellation of the tender with Mr Odinga arguing that the Dubai-based firm had contact with President Uhuru Kenyatta whom he says influenced the award of the Sh2.5 billion contract.
“IEBC cannot tell us that there is only one company in this world that can print ballot papers. Printing ballot papers is not rocket science. There are several companies in Europe, Belgium, and UK which are capable of printing the ballot papers,” Mr Odinga said at his Capitol Hill office on Tuesday.
Mr Odinga alleged that he was trying to prevent a repeat of the 2013 elections in which he alleged extra ballot papers were printed for the Jubilee team.
“In 2013, if you ask any of the former commissioners of IEBC, they will confirm that there were two million extra ballot papers printed and were handed to the director of intelligence, and they were marked at Kenyatta University and they were stuffed,” he said.
The Nasa leader went on: “And when the computer was rejecting the stuffed ballot papers, they crushed the server and that is why they delayed the announcement of the results.”
But in the NTV interview, Mr Chiloba said that he had not met President Kenyatta on the tender as had been alleged by Mr Odinga.
“I have met the President twice in my life. One by chance at a conference in Mombasa, and the next at State House when we paid him a courtesy call (while) introducing the new commissioners,” he said.
Mr Chiloba said that the process of printing the ballot papers is so meticulous that it is impossible to cancel the tender now.
Getting a different firm even through direct procurement, he said, will take “not less than two weeks.”
“Two weeks is already too late. As we speak now, we are already too late. We are trying to recover lost time,” said Mr Chiloba.
He went on: “For us to print 120 million ballot papers, it is not just a paper you will find on the street. They are security asset that must meet the (required) standards, packaged properly and delivered in the right place. You do not just wake up one morning and say you want to print a ballot paper.”
TRIP TO DUBAI
Mr Chiloba said that the offer by the commission to take representatives of political parties, religious and civic society groups as well as the media to travel to Dubai to witness the printing of the ballot papers is still open.
“It was supposed to be June 22. We might adjust it up to Friday this week,” he said of the Dubai trip.
“We have never closed the door in terms of dialogue to anyone. We have been having meetings with different stakeholders since February when the new commissioners came in.”
He said that the ballot papers will be tamper proof, arguing that they had put all stops to ensure that they got it right.
“Al-Ghurair has been printing ballot papers for us since 2014. This is not the first time,” said Mr Chiloba.
“We are open, but we must also be pragmatic in the sense that we must have an election in August. If we must hold the election on August 8, we must proceed in the manner in which we have proceeded,” Mr Chiloba said.
This is the first time that the ballot paper tender is an issue in the running of the elections in Kenya, Mr Chiloba added.