State capture: Vocal minister fingered in IEBC Sh40b tender wars that could delay 2022 elections

Monday, November 1st, 2021 00:00 |
Voting underway. Photo/COURTESY

A Cabinet Secretary and a commissioner with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) are among  high-ranking government officials implicated in the vicious fight over the multi-billion tenders for supply of materials at the agency.

Also being mentioned are former top IEBC officials, who are said to be fronting for one of the interested firms, Dubai-based Al Ghurair Printing Limited.

Sources at IEBC intimated that the CS and the ex-officials, whom we cannot name for legal reasons, are pushing to have the tenders single sourced for “selfish interests.”

The war for the lucrative tenders worth about Sh40 billion is now threatening to derail preparations for the 2022 General Election with IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati now warning that the apparent push and pull could force the electoral agency to resort to single sourcing for the materials the way it did in 2013 and 2017.

“Time is running out and we are getting worried over this tendency by some interested parties to rush to the courts and the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board (PPARB) to stop any slight move we make in the procurement process,” Chebukati told People Daily.

The IEBC boss blamed the apparent stand-off over the procurement process to competing business interests that have resorted to unorthodox means to have their way.

Sources within the commission intimated to People Daily that the Cabinet Secretary, the IEBC Commissioner and former officials at the agency have been pulling strings to frustrate the procurement process so that the agency is forced to resort to direct procurement at the last minute.

Last Thursday, PPARB barred IEBC from awarding the multi-billion-shilling tender for supply of ballot papers to be used in next year’s General Election to a Greek firm.

PPARB barred IEBC from signing the contracts with Inform P Lykos (Hellas) S.A., pending the determination of a review filed by Africa Infrastructure Development Company, which was among the 12 companies that participated in the tender.

Africa Infrastructure Development Company had moved to the board arguing that IEBC flouted the law when it picked only one company to supply the ballot papers, register of voters, election result declaration forms to be used at the polling station and election result declaration forms to be used at the constituency, county, and national tallying centre.

Joint ventures

“Under section 168 of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act 2015, the procurement proceedings are hereby suspended and no contract shall be signed between the procuring entity and the tenderer awarded the contract unless the appeal has been finalised,” the board said.

The company, through lawyer Justus Omollo, argued that for IEBC to lawfully enter into a framework agreement, the number of selected suppliers or contractors must not be less than seven vendors as stipulated in section 114(1)(c) of the PPAD regulations.

But in the tender, IEBC selected only one supplier, which Omollo said does not meet the threshold required by the law.

The electoral body had initially ruled out joint ventures, a vehicle that has allowed many local firms to ride on and win tenders.

The Greek firm beat 11 other suppliers to win a three-year open international tender that will see it also provide referendum result declaration.

Shailesh Patel, the proprietor of Infrastructure Development Company, further said he submitted various requests for clarification of the tender document to IEBC but he says the commission was evasive, particularly on the 40 per cent local content.

The deadline of submission of the tenders was August 13, but it was extended to August 27 and later September 10.

The tenders were opened on September 10 and evaluation was conducted. The tender attracted 12 companies including Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing LLC, Go Inspire Solutions, TALL Security Print Ltd, Inform Lykos (Hellas) S.A., and Africa Infrastructure Development company.

Others were Aerovote Security Print and Electoral Supplies (Ghana), Seshaasai Business Forms PVT Ltd (India), and Kwanginsa Company Ltd (South Korea).

The three-year deal involves the supply of ballot papers, registration of voters, statutory election results declaration forms to be used in polling stations and referendum results declaration forms.

Last month, the board had cancelled the tender for Kenya Integrated Elections Management System (KIEMS) on grounds that IEBC had not followed the law while shopping for a new ICT system, which would be used to identify voters and transmit results.

Due diligence

The High Court later overruled the board and allowed IEBC to proceed with the process, since the firm that had appealed, Risk Innovates Limited, was not part of the companies that submitted bids.

On October 19, one of the IEBC commissioners raised eyebrows among his colleagues and senior staff when he sent an email to one of the managers in the procurement department requesting to be furnished with details about the procurement process.

“For purpose of the plenary meeting scheduled for Friday morning, kindly prepare for the presentation of the full evaluation and due diligence reports of the plenary.

I would like you to furnish me with the hard copies of the two reports tomorrow, Thursday afternoon, when I come to the office.

It appears that you did not cover those reports during your report to the committee during our meeting yesterday,” the commissioner stated.

The email by the commissioner, said to be acting on the behest of the Cabinet Secretary and two former IEBC officials, has raised eyebrows in the agency, with some of his colleagues now accusing him of trying to meddle in the procurement process.

But undeterred, the commissioner was at it again on October 28, when he wrote another email to all the commissioners and senior managers, petitioning them to consider cancelling the entire process and instead award the tender to Al Ghurair Limited at a lower price.

The commissioner is said to be leaking out insider procurement details to the CS, former senior IEBC officials and bidding firms.

In 2017, IEBC picked Dubai-based Al Ghurair Printing for the lucrative ballot papers deal, but several cases were filed in court challenging the deal. The commission later spent Sh2.5 billion for the deal.

On the other hand, Safran Morpho, which had rebranded to OT Morpho, clinched the tender for Kiems kit and overall technology work through direct procurement after lengthy bidder wars.

Sources say some of the court processes are being sponsored by some of the multi-national firms interested in the tenders, with the main aim of forcing the commission to resort to direct procurement.

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