You won’t peruse register, electoral body tells voters

Tuesday, March 1st, 2022 05:33 | By
IEBC CEO Marjan Hussein Marjan. pHOTO/PD/Samuel Kariuki

Kenyans will not have a chance to scrutinise the voters register after it emerged that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has run out of time to hire a company for the exercise.

Commission’s acting chief executive Hussein Marjan yesterday told a parliamentary committee that the process was complicated after the American firm initially tasked with the work, Smartmatics, failed to deliver, forcing a fresh tendering process.

“The company that had been tasked to carry out the voter verification exercise did not have the capacity prompting a fresh tendering process,” Marjan said.

Marjan, who appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), said the commission requires Sh1.3 billion for voter verification exercise.

He, however, found himself on the receiving end after committee members told him that the commission was time-barred since the process ought to end six months before the elections.

“Do you realise that what you are attempting to do is unlawful? Verification of the voter register is supposed to end six months to the election and we are now five months to August 9. That technically puts you out. You are in breach of law,” said Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo.

Marjan concurred with the sentiments but maintained that it is not mandatory as election preparedness can proceed without voters scrutinising the register.

“The law was amended sometime back removing the clause making it mandatory for voters to verify the registration. On that one we will not be operating outside the law,” Marjan said. IEBC is seeking Sh800 million from the National Treasury to clear outstanding bills to secure the voters’ register.

While appearing before the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee recently, Marjan said explained that the budgetary allocation the commission is seeking is meant to clear an Sh798 million bill owed to a French firm, IDEMIA, formerly OT Morpho.

The electoral agency has had a long-running standoff with the IT company, which has been the custodian of the 2017 register.

The firm declined to transfer the data to the new company hired by IEBC last year prompting the standoff.

IDEMIA has refused to transfer the data to Smartmatic that irregularly clinched the contract in November last year, citing unpaid bills. IDEMIA is demanding the Sh798 million from the 2017 elections, which include withholding tax and euro exchange rates before offering technical services.

Pending bills

It also emerged that the commission owes Sh1.9 billion in legal fees that Marjan warned, will hamper elections preparedness.

Asked by Funyula MP Wilberforce Oundo to give assurance that the pending bills will not affect the outcome of the General Election, Marjan said the commission was in talks with all the creditors and repayment plans had been put in place.

Otiende, while asking for the list of lawyers owed legal fees, noted that some of the monies were unreasonable. “The legitimacy of some of the fees by the lawyers is in question and need to be addressed before it is settled,” Otiende said.

Marjan, however, said the bills had been audited and found to be valid and that the commission had already made the request for the money to settle the debts.

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

Reports over the period monitored indicate that there have been fears from stakeholders that the polls body may 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, is set to be heard in court this month.

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.

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