NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga warns IEBC on ballot paper tender

NASA flag bearer Raila Odinga addressing a press conference in Nairobi on June 07, 2017. [PHOTO DAVID NJAAGA/STANDARD}

National Super Alliance (NASA) presidential candidate Raila Odinga has warned the electoral body over awarding the Sh2.5 billion ballot paper tender to a Dubai based firm.

Raila said the opposition was concerned about the happenings at the IEBC following the removal of two senior managers, linking the wars to a push to award the deal to Al Ghurair publishing and security printing.

The NASA chief claimed there were elements at the IEBC who are determined to award the tender to Al Ghurair through single sourcing on grounds that it’s the only bidder with the capacity to do the work, terming the move unacceptable.

“We are concerned about the sackings of officials and ordering of ballot papers. It seems as though its only one company that can manufacturer ballot papers and in the world and we don’t want to believe that we must only buy the ballots from Al Ghurair; there is something sinister,” he said.

Raila who was speaking on Wednesday at his Capitol Hill offices said he will soon release a comprehensive statement to state NASA’s concerns about the electoral agency’s preparedness on the polls.

Last week, the commission sent away Director of Procurement Lawy Aura for allegedly bungling major procurement deals, among them to Sh2.5 billion tender for ballot papers.

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“The Commission on 29 May 2017 relieved the Procurement Director Mr. Lawy Aura of his duties necessitated by incompetence that has made operations untenable as we fast approach the General Election,” IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati said in a statement on Tuesday.

IEBC had written to Treasury last week asking his employer to recall him for ‘failing to give the commission professional opinion and guidance on matters of procurement’.

His removal is now being linked to a boardroom war pitting commissioners on one side and secretariat on one side.

Aura becomes the second top official to be shown the door, only a week after ICT Director James Muhati was sent on compulsory leave over claims of sabotaging an internal audit.

The two were considered among senior managers who are close to CEO Ezra Chiloba and this action according to insiders is meant to send a coded message to him.

The commissioners have been seeking to flex their muscles in having a bigger say in several matters including procurement even after Chiloba reiterated that as the accounting officer, he holds overall responsibility over such matters while the commission performs an oversight role.

Among the controversial tenders Aura has presided over are the Sh3.8 billion Kenya Integrated Election Management Systems (KIEMS), Sh2.5 billion supply of ballot papers and Sh350 million tender for elections communication consultancy.

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His services have been terminated at a time, the commission is struggling to identify a suitable firm to supply the country the 120 billion ballot papers, a deal which some top chiefs want given to Dubai based Al Ghurair Printing and Security.

The tender suffered a blow in February this year, when high court judge George Odunga terminated the contract signed between IEBC and Al Ghurair and directed the commission to start afresh.

A second bid to kick start the process, this time through restricted tendering came to a grinding halt last month, after the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board (PPARB) nullified following blunders in the tender documents.

Following the board’s directive, IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati announced commencement of investigations immediately targeting the procurement department with an aim of finding officers culpable for bungling the whole process and that stern action shall be meted.

This seems to have sealed the fate of Aura, who it’s understood had advised the commission against engaging Al Ghuarair for the deal. In spite of the pressure from within and without, IBEC chiefs are pushing to award Al Ghuari the deal citing a report prepared by director of Elections Immaculate Kassait who recommended the suitability of Al Ghuarair.

Chiloba has since requested the commissioners to put it in writing any directive on picking a supplier for the kits or write to the State Law Office seeking legal opinion on their direct involvement in the process.

“We have noted with deep concern, the growing anxiety associated with the ballot procurement in particular the bidding process and ultimate selection of the supplier. The Commission is addressing the issue of the procurement of ballot material with utmost urgency. We are making every effort in reducing the delay in the selection of the supplier and we will inform the nation of our options soon,”Chebukati said.

He added; “We will continue to engage all political actors and in utmost good faith as we proceed with the procurement of the ballot material and other processes.”

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