Big relief for IEBC as Appeal Court throws out ballot case

Wafula Chebukati, Chairman Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. file photo | nmg
Wafula Chebukati, Chairman Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. file photo | nmg 

The Court of Appeal has overturned a High Court judgement blocking Dubai-based firm, Al Ghurair from printing presidential ballot papers.

The decision spares the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) a logistics nightmare just 17 days to the August 8 polls.

High Court judges Joel Ngugi, George Odunga and John Mativo had earlier this month allowed the IEBC to retain the services of the Dubai firm in printing ballot papers for all other positions other than the presidential race.

The Court of Appeal said the High Court erred in granting orders blocking Al Ghurair from printing presidential ballot papers on grounds that public participation had not been conducted.

The appellate judges ruled that public participation is not a requirement in direct procurement, which was applied by the electoral commission in awarding the contract to Al Ghurair.

They also faulted the High Court for failing to appreciate that there was no time to award another tender.

However, the appellate judges agreed with their High Court counterparts in rejecting claims that President Kenyatta met Al Ghurair officials and that he influenced the awarding of the tender.

The High Court, they said, was right in holding that newspaper cuttings were not sufficient to prove that the President met directors of the firm.

“Such articles remain hearsay unless the author appears in court and is interrogated on the authenticity of the article,” they said.

The judges said the Opposition coalition, the National Super Alliance (Nasa), should also have provided unmistakable evidence to prove that during the alleged meeting, the ballot printing tender was discussed.

The court has not found any such evidence, they ruled. They also agreed with the High Court decision converting judicial review to a constitutional petition.

The IEBC had appealed the nullification of the tender for printing presidential ballot papers.

The High Court judges had made a finding that the commission had failed to engage the public in awarding the tender.

They had directed the IEBC to start the process afresh and come up with a framework for ensuring public participation.

In the papers filed at the Court of Appeal, the IEBC had argued that the judges made an error in law in finding that public participation is a mandatory precondition to direct procurement conducted as provided under the Public Procurement and Assets Disposal Act.

The commission was also dissatisfied with the order directing it to craft a programme of public participation to operationalise Article 10 of the Constitution.

“By the said finding, the judges were, in effect, directing IEBC to usurp Parliament’s role of legislating,” IEBC had argued.

The commission said the judges erred when they assumed the constitutional function and autonomy of the IEBC to set operational programmes, including the timetable for procuring election materials.