IEBC digital polls platform tender runs into trouble as firm protests

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission CEO Ezra Chiloba. PHOTO | FILE
Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission CEO Ezra Chiloba. PHOTO | FILE 

The plan to purchase a common digital platform for voter listing, identification and relay of results has run into tendering headwinds after one of the bidders moved to the procurement tribunal alleging a Chickengate-type scandal.

Dittel Ltd, a Nairobi-based company, has moved to the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board seeking to quash the tender claiming that its documents were designed and prepared by French firm Morpho — which supplied 15,000 biometric voter registration kits for the 2013 polls.

The allegations that a supplier moved to influence the lucrative tender has forced the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to suspend the tender for the supply of the app dubbed Kenya Integrated Elections Management System, which was due for opening on Monday.

“The applicant requests the board that it orders for immediate verification of the given soft copy of the MS Word document hereby submitted to prove that the bid was done by Safran Morpho on 9/17/2016 and given to IEBC to advertise,” Dittel says in filings at the quasi-judicial body.

“An urgent investigation be conducted to find out how a foreign company developed a bid document so as to influence the award of the tender by locking out local firms to the advantage of foreign companies,” reads the affidavit filed at the tribunal.

This fresh twist pushes IEBC dangerously close to the April 30, 2017 deadline set for procurement of the digital electoral system, further casting doubts on the agency’s preparedness for the August General Election now less than seven months away.

Jackson Nduati, a director at Dittel Ltd, says in his sworn statement that Safran Morpho allegedly bribed IEBC officials to set tender terms that would suit the French firm win the multi-billion shilling tender.

He has filed the petition through two law firms: Ochieng, Achach & Kaino Advocates, and Abincha Mogambi & Co Advocates. The fresh tendering headwinds at IEBC mirror the Chickengate scandal where Kenyan electoral officials pocketed hefty bribes totalling Sh52 million, codenamed Chicken, to award contracts to British printing firm Smith & Ouzman.

The graft-tainted electoral agency is currently battling two other procurement-related cases which have been stopped by the High Court.

Judge George Odunga in December suspended the award of a Sh2.5 billion ballot papers tender to Dubai-based Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing Company pending hearing and determination of the matter filed by opposition wing Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord).

IEBC also suffered another setback when the High Court stopped the agency from awarding a tender to audit the voters’ register to consulting firm KPMG.

The recently amended elections laws require the elections body to set up an integrated digital platform that brings together biometric voter registration, electronic voter identification, and electronic transmission of election results.

The tendering bribery claims come at a time when the National Assembly has begun interviewing the seven members to make up a new-look commission.

The Issack Hassan-led IEBC was forced out on allegations of gross incompetence with integrity issues and questions on the handling of the March 2013 polls ominously hanged around their necks like an albatross.