IEBC firm linked to last-minute halt of Nigeria poll

Wafula Chebukati

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati. FILE PHOTO | NMG

A Greek firm seeking reinstatement of a Sh3 billion contract for printing ballot papers for Kenya’s 2022 elections is fighting claims linking it to the last-minute postponement of polls in Nigeria in February 2019.

Inform Lykos (Hellas) S.A has petitioned the High Court to ignore its involvement in the Nigerian elections when deciding on the suit where its contract to supply the ballot papers to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) was cancelled.

The firm says there is no official indictment against it for the postponed elections in Nigeria in a legal suit that could pose challenges to organisation of the election where Deputy President William Ruto and veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga are front runners.

The procurement regulator has asked the IEBC to review the tender for printing of the ballot papers and other election materials.

But the High Court has received a petition seeking the termination of the ballot paper deals and barring the Greek firm from the contract, citing the botched Nigerian polls.

In 2019, the Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec) postponed Nigeria’s presidential and parliamentary elections for a week, a few hours to voting, due to what was termed logistical issues.

Inform Lykos (Hellas) S.A had been contracted by the Nigerian poll agency to print ballot papers.

Boaz Waruku, an interested party in the Kenyan case, says in court documents the Greek firm should be barred from supplying the ballot papers because of its involvement in the Nigerian elections.

He accuses the firm of allegedly supplying parallel ballot papers, eroding public trust in the electoral process.

“Publicly available information further indicates that M/s Inform Lykos (Hellas) S.A played a significant role in the 2019 election debacle in Nigeria when, at the very last moment, elections were postponed,” he said in a sworn statement.

The postponed of the Nigerian elections left local politicians accusing each other of trying to manipulate the vote following the delay. The electoral commission blamed the postponement to logistical problems, but did not provide further details.

Inform Lykos (Hellas) S.A chief commercial officer Grekis Kostas told the Kenyan court that Mr Waruku had not tabled any official indictment from the Nigerian government placing blame on the company for the conduct of the 2019 elections.

“I am aware from my knowledge and information available online that the Independent National Electoral Commission issued an official statement blaming delays in its 2019 general election on the implementation of its logistics and operational plan,” Mr Kostas said.

The firm says the Nigerian government has never initiated any action, including commercial penalties, against it over its role in the 2019 elections.

Mr Kostas wants the case dismissed with costs.

Inform Lykos was contracted by the IEBC to supply ballot papers, register of voters and election declaration forms, among other items, for the 2022 General Election.

But Mr Waruku challenged the tender arguing that the process was not transparent and accused IEBC of selecting only one supplier, which he said does not meet the threshold required by the law.

The electoral body had initially ruled out joint ventures allowing many local firms to ride on and win tenders in partnership with moneyed foreign firms.

The Inform Lykos contract was cancelled by the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board last week.

The board directed the IEBC to restart the process at the financial evaluation stage, restricting the tender to the shortlisted bidders.

Contracts for printing presidential ballot papers ahead of elections have previously been marked with courts fights, prompting their cancellations In 2017, the High Court nullified the contract for printing presidential ballot papers, just weeks to the elections that happened on August 8.

The judge ruled that the IEBC’s tendering process was not sufficiently transparent after the opposition lodged a series of legal challenges over the organisation of the election where President Uhuru Kenyatta was seeking a second and final five-year term against Mr Odinga.

The IEBC awarded the Sh2.5 billion contract to Dubai-based firm Al Ghurair in 2016. But a High Court judge cancelled it, saying it did not follow new election regulations after it was challenged by the opposition.

In the latest case, Mr Waruku has also challenged the tender for the supply of Sh4.7 billion Kenya Integrated Elections Management Systems (Kiems) kits awarded to Smartmatic International Holding B.V. Mr Waruku together with Stephen Mirambo asked the court to merge the two cases saying they are based on the same tender process.

Mr Mirambo said he was apprehensive that the IEBC had not corrected the problems that led to the nullification of the presidential election in 2017, because it has failed to address the tendering process.