A company linked to OT-Morpho, the French group that was entangled in the controversial supply of voter identification gadgets and computer servers for the recent Kenyan polls, is among four European bank note printing firms standing in line to win the lucrative tender to print and supply Kenya’s new-look currency.
Oberthur Fiduciare will face off with, among others, De La Rue International after the procurement watchdog on Monday cancelled the Sh10 billion-a-year tender awarded to the British printer and ordered a fresh evaluation of bids.
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Swedish firm Crane AB, which filed the petition before the procurement agency, is also in contention for the tender alongside Giesecke & Devrient, a German company.
The Public Procurement Administrative Review Board (PPARB) consequently directed the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) to make a fresh evaluation of all the tenders submitted to it within 14 days.
The PPARB panel, comprising chairman Paul Gicheru and members Hussein Were, Peter Bita Ondieki and Paul Ngotho, called the process of the award to De La Rue “unlawful”, saying the CBK abused the 15 per cent local preference clause. The CBK has appealed the board’s decision at the High Court.
The CBK was accused of giving De La Rue, which is involved in the production of about 150 currencies and prints passports, a 15 per cent margin preference for having local shareholding.
OT-Morpho had been contracted for the supply of 45,000 biometric authentication kits for voters, the associated systems capable of electronically transmitting the electoral results as recorded by the polling stations, and the associated services of training and support to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for the 2017 presidential election.
The firm denied claims of alleged hacking and manipulation of computer servers, the electronic authentication and electoral results transmission systems during the August 8 General Election.
The French group rebranded itself as IDEMIA following the May 2017 merger of Oberthur Technologies (OT) and Safran Identity & Security (Morpho).
Francois-Charles Oberthur Fiduciaire also featured in a controversial multi-billion shilling contract for the supply of electronic passports more than 10 years ago prior to the merger of all its activities and card systems to form Oberthur Technologies in 2011.
The infamous Anglo Leasing affair, which involved contracts being awarded to phantom firms, shocked Kenyans when it was revealed in 2004.
Anglo Leasing Finance was paid billions to supply the Kenyan government with a system to print new high-technology passports.
Other fictitious companies involved in the scam were given money to supply naval ships and forensic laboratories. Anglo Leasing said then that it sub-contracted Francois-Charles Oberthur Fiduciaire to do the job.
Oberthur Fiduciaire’s contract to supply passport-making equipment was scrapped by the Kenyan government over allegations of irregularities.
None of the contracts was honoured.
Oberthur Fiduciaire did not respond to our queries on its operations in Kenya by the time of going to press.
The privately owned French printing group was founded in 1842 and is controlled by the secretive multi-billionaire Savare family.
“Combining art and technology is the central challenge in security printing, and requires very specific know how and a high level of technical knowledge,” says Oberthur Fiduciaire on its website while selling itself as an experienced player.
“We printed our first banknotes for the Banque de France in 1940. Our knowhow and expertise, coupled with integrity and trust, have long been recognised by central banks and governments across the world.”
According to IDEMIA CEO Didier Lamouche, the company rebranded last year to reflect its position as global leader in the digital sector.
Mr Lamouche said then that IDEMIA “will continue to uphold its mission of providing an expertise in trusted identities to ensure a safer world.”
He cited IDEMIA’s commitment to building a new offer capable of revisiting the world of digital security.