The vicious battle among prospective bidders for Kenya Integrated Elections Management System (Kiems) could be headed to a French court.
Last week, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) directly awarded the tender to French company Safran Identity and Security after cancelling the one that appeared headed to Gemalto SA, also from France.
But Kanuri Ltd, a local associate of Gemalto, through Mr Bildad Kagai, now says they have hired the services of a local lawyer who will work with legal experts in Bordeaux, France to “advise us on how we can make this complaint official to the authorities responsible for managing conduct of French registered businesses working overseas”.
Mr Kagai says the lawyers will look into claims that Safran could have inappropriately influenced the award of the contract.
Though Gemalto was the only technically qualified bidder for Kiems, the French firm did not win the award because it “quoted a price of Sh5.2 billion against the available budget of Sh3.8 billion”, IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati said on March 22 as he announced the termination of the tender and the decision for direct award to Safran.
The system is required to integrate voter register, identification and results transmission.
The decision to file the case in France follows unsuccessful attempts by Mr Kagai to get the French Economic Counsellor in Nairobi, Benoit Gauthier, to intervene.
With no signs of let-off in the Kiems saga, the Nation has learned of entrenched political and business rivalry, as individuals linked to Jubilee and Nasa seek to have a stake in the supply and delivery of the technology.
What emerges is a picture of political power play, complicity by the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board (PPARB) chaired by lawyer Paul Gicheru and business rivalry.
Amani National Congress (ANC) deputy party leader Kipruto arap Kirwa says the cancellation of the tender was a result of exposure that the award was being pushed by proxies of the Jubilee top brass in PPARB that purported to direct the IEBC to award the technology tender to Gemalto.
“ANC is aware that this is a grand plot to execute electoral fraud in which the blanket termination of the tender was pre-planned to abort timely procurement of the vital electronic components without which the only option of conducting elections is the manipulative-prone manual voting system favoured by Jubilee but also blamed for the 2007/8 post-election violence,” Mr Kirwa said.
In the open tender process, Gemato was working with Mr Kagai, the man behind Kanuri Ltd and OilPro, two companies with major interests in the fuel industry in Kenya.
A graduate of construction and building economics from the University of Nairobi, Mr Kagai is no stranger to controversy having been among the people who were mentioned in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ICC pre-trial brief released on January 19, 2015 after the crimes against humanity case was withdrawn.
The ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had accused Mr Kagai of being a defence intermediary who “purportedly acting on behalf of the accused” tracked down James Maina Kabutu who was ICC witness 4 in the case and “bribed him to withdraw his testimony regarding the PEV (post-election violence)”.
Like others mentioned in the pre-trial brief, Mr Kagai denied Bensouda’s accusations.
Kanuri Ltd has links to Professional Digital Services Ltd, which is understood to be the primary local partner of Gemalto in Kenya, but Mr Kagai said that in this tender Gemalto “put a bid directly, not with the local agent”. He, however, admitted working with the French company.
Before the controversial tender was terminated and directly awarded to Safran, Mr Kagai had appeared as an interested party before PPARB.
On December 29, 2016, PPARB stopped the process after one of the prospective bidders, Dittel Ltd, applied for a review accusing IEBC of flouting tender procedures.
Though Dittel Ltd had expressed its interest in the tender, it did not submit its bid and on January 16, they unconditionally withdrew their application in unclear circumstances.