IEBC chairman Chebukati Wafula (centre) addresses the Press on the procurement of the Integrated Elections Management System at Anniversssary Towers in Nairobi. IEBC vice chairperson Connie Maina (right) and Dr Roselyne Akombe were present. [PHOTO: JENIPHER WACHIE/Standard]
Cornered and running out of time, the electoral commission bounced back the multi-billion shilling poll technology tender to the same French firm which supplied the 2013 Biomeric Voter registration kits.
Barely an hour after National Super Alliance (NASA) principals roundly condemned the Independent and Electoral Commission (IEBC) for shoddy preparations for the August 8 General Election, commission chair Wafula Chebukati revealed Safran Identity and Security (previously Morpho) had scooped the “direct” tender for the job.
Addressing a press conference in Nairobi, yesterday, Mr Chebukati defended the decision to single source Safran citing time and budgetary constrains.
Safron must deliver the technology by the statutory deadline of April 10.
The IEBC chair said the tender procurement kicked off on December 16, last year and concluded on March 17 but faced legal battles at every stage. And when the commission settled on M/S Gemalto S.A, the company quoted Sh5.2 billion above IEBC’s Sh3.8 billion budget.
“Taking into account the remaining processes of the tender procurement, the manufacturing, delivery, installation and commissioning, it was not going to be possible for the Commission to meet its operational and legal timelines,” Chebukati said.
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But the domestic electoral observation group – ELOG- said as much as single-sourcing is justified in law; it does not help in according the electoral process needed credibility.
“And coming a week to the deadline, it is very suspect to the major players. Besides, is Safran going to be able to manufacture, supply and assemble these kits in a week? I haven’t talked about the litigation that may arise from this,” ELOG spokesman Mulle Musau said.
On Tuesday, IEBC cancelled the Kenya Integrated Elections Management Systems (KIEMS) awarded to Gemalto. In a letter, Commission CEO Ezra Chiloba cited inadequate budget, limited operational time and substantial “technological change” as reasons for the cancellation.
On Thursday, the firm wrote to the commission requesting a meeting and pleaded for the decision on the tender to be rescinded. Gemalto’s Vice President Charles Mevaa, who signed the letter, also poked holes into the reasons given for the cancellation.
Yesterday, Chebukati said Safron met the cut for direct procurement on account of its previous engagement with the commission in the 2013 elections.
“So far, over 19 million voters have been registered using a stand-alone system provided by Safran Identity & Security. The Commission has a preventive and maintenance contract for the BVR system with Safran for the next three years,” he said.
He also revealed that Safran has been supporting the Commission in preparing the final voter register which is being compiled using the biometric system. The commission is seeking to integrate the components of voter identification and results transmission with the new voter registration database.
Last month, NASA through its co-chair of the national coordinating committee James Orengo wrote to IEBC demanding to know Morpho’s role. Mr Orengo also complained that Morpho had continued to retain various software licenses currently in use while some had expired.
IEBC refused to discuss these issues describing them “internal business of the commission.”
“We have very limited time left to comply with the legal timelines in relation to the deployment of the ICTs in elections,” Chebukati said yesterday.
He emphasised, “Adequate time is required for the purposes of configuration, testing, training and deployment for the purposes of voter verification exercise by May 10th.”
The commission argued that they learnt from the past mistakes of having many vendors, as was the case in the last elections that saw the Electronic Voter Identification Devices (EVIDS) fail on the poll date.
“The procurement law section 63 provides for open tender and that what we have taken. We had to settle on the best way out to ensure we deliver free, fair and credible polls on 8th of August,” affirmed the chairman, when asked why the commission opted to single source.
He confirmed, “Safran has undertaken to deliver the technology with the statutory timelines. Using the firm now ensures continuity and guarantee for compatibility, timely delivery and accountability in the deployment of the new system.”
Without quoting the new figure for the tender, Chebukati stressed, “We are alive to that there fact that there must be value for money and timelines to guarantee delivery of a free, fair and credible election.”
“In 2013, we had many vendors, this had serious implications on the election because there was no enough time for data integration. We built on the strengths,” he said.
He continued, “Safran has sufficient project management capacity and its systems are fully compatible and integrated for the success of the polls. Any other way will jeopardize preparations for the exercise.”