UK firm cries foul over sourcing of ballot papers printer

ug ballot

The Ugandan presidential elections ballot papers. Smith & Ouzman is said to have printed ballot papers for Uganda. The company is also to print for Kenyan poll. Photo/FILE

A UK firm has filed a complaint with the procurement authority seeking to scuttle sourcing of ballot papers for Kenya’s largest General Election from Smith & Ouzman.

In a petition to Morris Juma, the director-general of the Public Procurement Oversight Authority (PPOA), security printer Aero Vote Ltd says the procurement of the materials was done contrary to procurement rules.

The company also questions the capacity of Smith & Ouzman to deliver.

The winning firm has been involved in Kenya’s electoral process including by-elections and referendum over the years.

However, the petitioner says the company which recently printed ballots for the Ugandan elections does not print the ballots and instead outsources to various printers.

The firm said it approached the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) even before the process started. This contradicts IEBC’s recent explanation that it had failed to get other suppliers.

“We had tried before with the normal procurement process, but we did not get the right supplier. The commission was also time-barred and, therefore, could not afford the long process outlined in the Public Procurement and Disposal Act,” a local newspaper recently quoted vice chairman Lillian Mahiri-Zaja as saying.

The petition comes after a blogger criticised the process.

“As a security printer specialising in the elections arena, Kenya elections will be unique, with six elections and over one hundred million papers to print with the complexity of over 2,000 types. There is no printer worldwide which can produce such a complex and large project within the timescale to meet the delivery for a successful election,” said Aero Vote.

The document is circulated to the Attorney-General, the Treasury, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Authority and President Kibaki’s private secretary, Nick Wanjohi.

Although most security printers rarely go on record due to the secretive and competitive nature of the industry—Kenya’s smart driving licence, passport and ID printing have all been halted by vicious competition—one of the players who is opposed to the single-sourcing, however, said the UK firm had delivered elsewhere in Africa.

He confirmed visiting a printer in the UK to find another firm printing material on behalf of Smith & Ouzman.

Smith & Ouzman firm had not responded to our e-mailed questions by the time we went to press. Aero Vote said it has printed voter materials for UNDP in Libya, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Afghanistan and Yemen.

It has also printed for Nigerian states and the federal government.

According to its managing director, Chirag Sheth, who says he was born in Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Nigeria and Ghana had used multiple suppliers to cut the risk of delays.

Ruin poll

The Business Daily was unable to reach the commission’s chairman Issack Hassan and PPOA director-general Morris Juma on phone Wednesday. Aero Vote also said that it has unsuccessfully tried partnering with its UK rival on the Kenya security print job.

“Unfortunately, Smith & Ouzman have said that they ‘are sorted’,” said the firm.

It warns of the consequences of botching up the elections if the material is not delivered on time.