Tussle over Sh800m debt could block IEBC register 

Wednesday, February 16th, 2022 08:45 | By
IEBC CEO Hussein Marjan
IEBC CEO Marjan Hussein before the Public Accounts Committee. Photo/PD/Samuel Kariuki

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is seeking about Sh800 million to offset outstanding bills in order to secure the voters’ register.

Acting CEO Hussein Marjan told a parliamentary committee yesterday that the commission has a Sh798 million bill owed to a foreign IT firm.

Consequently, he pleaded with the National Assembly’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee to allocate IEBC over Sh4.5 billion, which include Sh2.3 billion for pending bills and Sh1.3 billion for voter verification exercise.

Marjan was referring to a standoff that has seen an IT company, which has been the custodian of the 2017 register decline to transfer the data to the new firm hired by IEBC last year.

French firm IDEMIA, formerly OT Morpho, has refused to transfer the data to the American firm Smartmatic that clinched the contract in November last year, citing unpaid bills.

Tender process

IDEMIA is demanding the Sh798 million from the 2017 elections, which include withholding tax and euro exchange rates before offering technical services.

On November 3, 2021, IEBC awarded the tender for the supply and maintenance of Integrated Election Management Systems (Kiems) kit to Smartmatics International Holding B.V.  

The firm won against other five bidders that include Risk Africa innovatis Limited, Indra Soluciones Tecnologias De La Informacion, Genkey Solutions, Laxton Group Ltd and Africa Infrastructure Development Company. 

Risk Africa innovatis Ltd, unsatisfied with IEBC’s decision, moved to court challenging the tendering process on grounds that the commission had not been fully constituted during the time it was conducting the procurement.

 It also claimed that data migration was not budgeted for at the time the tender was being floated.

This was the second time Risk Africa was challenging the tender process. The first time it took the case to Public Procurement Administrative Review Board, which directed IEBC, on September 20, 2021, to prepare fresh, tender document for the supply and maintenance of KIEMS kits for tender No. IEBC/OIT/001/21/2020/2021.

 IEBC would later move to court to challenge the decision and High Court Judge Jairus Ngaah ruled that PPARB misapprehended Section 2 of the Act on the tendering process.

Reports over the period monitored indicate that there have been fears from stakeholders that IEBC might be forced to directly procure KIEMS tender with the current cases challenging the tender awarded to Smartmatic International Holding as it did in the past.

Kiems tender case, now consolidated with another one involving tender for ballot printing papers, are set to be heard in court this month.

Public fears

Failure of Smartmatic International Holding, MD Frans Gunnick to turn up for a meeting with IEBC to sign the tender for Kiems  has further stirred public fears on whether the commission will be able to hold credible elections.

Last month, a meeting attended by all commissioners and senior staff from the Secretariat and County Election Coordinators in Naivasha, was told of the frustrations the IT team is going through.

The presentation indicated that the system from IDEMIA procured in 2012 has a capacity of storing data for 20 million, meaning its now at full capacity.   

Although IEBC has been enlisting new voters using the BVR kits, the data cannot be processed or duplicated in their servers.

Equally, thousands of Kenyans who had applied to have their polling stations changed or change of particulars has not been done since the BVR server storage capacity is full.

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