IEBC again picks Al-Ghurair to print Oct 17 ballot papers

IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG
IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG 

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) on Tuesday added impetus to the controversy surrounding the management of the impending presidential election with the release of a document indicating it intends to award the multi-million ballot paper printing contract to the controversial Dubai-based company Al-Ghurair.

The message, which intensified the Nasa coalition’s opposition to the repeat poll, was communicated to President Uhuru Kenyatta and his rival Raila Odinga, in a nine-page memo.

“Given that the commission already has a framework agreement with Al-Ghurair, we intend to proceed with printing (of the ballot papers) with the company,” IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati said.

Mr Odinga’s National Super Alliance (Nasa) coalition is opposed to the Dubai firm’s participation in any aspect of the impending election, arguing it has ties with Mr Kenyatta and his Jubilee Party – a claim the President has denied.

Nasa also blames Al-Ghurair for the many irregularities in the August 8 General Election, many of which arose from use of questionable documents such as Forms 34A, and Bs that were found to be bearing doubtful identity and security features.

Mr Chebukati, however, attempted to allay the opposition’s fears with an assurance that the commission would add additional security features to ensure the integrity of the ballot papers and other election material.

“We will install a tracking system with end to end visibility to monitor and track movement of the presidential ballot papers during the entire freight from the printer, to the warehouse, the constituency and the polling stations,” Mr Chebukati said, adding that the candidates’ agents will have access to the system.

The IEBC document was presented to Mr Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto during an aborted meeting with the IEBC at the poll agency’s Anniversary Towers headquarters. Nasa immediately protested what it termed an “ambush” with the document and Jubilee’s failure to show up on time and walked away from the meeting.

Mr Chebukati, in the agenda document, also rubbished Nasa’s clamour for the sacking of IEBC chief executive Ezra Chiloba and his replacement with a seven-member special project team to be headed by Mr Chiloba’s deputy, Marjan Hussein Marjan.

Mr Chebukati had on Monday said the Special Projects team would have a specific purpose of delivering the October 17 poll, but with the continued help of the existing structure in the secretariat, including Mr Chiloba as the chief executive.

Mr Chebukati said the IEBC would ensure a reduction in extra ballot papers printed by reducing the number of ballot papers per booklet from the 50 it had for the August elections.

Presidential candidate Ekuru Aukot of the Third Way Alliance had in July protested over the 1.2 million extra ballot papers that Al-Ghurair printed.

The IEBC said the anomaly arose from a provision that required the printing of one per cent extra ballot papers rounded off to the nearest 50.

“The printer should have seals for each constituency pallet to be witnessed by agents at installation and breaking at each of the 290 constituencies,” said Mr Chebukati.

The IEBC also promised to carry out a full audit of its server before the fresh poll. Jubilee Party appeared to be happy with the turn of events and praised the commission for exercising its independence which should be respected by all parties.

“We must give IEBC the space to run this election. We must respect their independence. We cannot be complaining about this agenda, about some items that have been proposed. IEBC is coming forward to share information, and in good faith,” Mr Ruto said.

The DP said Jubilee’s concern on the seven-member project team was because “we were told it was not a unanimous decision.”