IDEMIA f/k/a OT-Morpho before a name change (and previously Safran Morpho before the French defense conglomerate sold this division to the French technology group Oburthur Technologies in a transaction closed shortly before August 2017 Kenyan election) has been a fixture of the past two Kenyan elections.
I have written about issues involving these procurements numerous times over the years and am continuing my engagement with the USAID Freedom Of Information office in their review and processing of public information from USAID support to the Kenyan IEBC in the 2013 election, from my request in 2015. (So far they have processed and released or withheld about half of the records sent from Nairobi to Washington by early 2016. They continue to assure me that they are working away at this.)
Last July IDEMIA dismissed without explanation a defamation suit it had filed against Raila Odinga and other NASA coalition leaders in April 2018 shortly after Raila’s “handshake with Uhuru ended high level political contention over problematic KIEMS system IDEMIA had sold the IEBC in March 2017. The court records I reviewed indicted a unilateral dismissal rather than a settlement.
The judgment of the Supreme Court in the 2013 election petitions of AfriCOG and the opposition found that there was evidence of procurement fraud with the failed technology acquisitions, and ordered an investigation, but the IEBC, Kenyan prosecutors and donors all failed on that account. OT-Morpho, n/k/a IDEMIA once again was chosen in an opaque and controversial procurement process for the bigger 2017 “integrated” system. (I was told by the USAID press office that USAID did not finance the KIEMS purchase for the IEBC for 2017.)
Members of the National Assembly voted on Wednesday to block technology firm IDEMIA Securities from doing business in Kenya for at least 10 years, citing violation of the Companies Act.
The move complicates the ongoing Huduma Namba registration, as the contract was awarded to the French firm at Sh6 billion.
. . . .
The MPs amended the report of the House Committee on Public Accounts on the audited accounts of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), to have the technology firm held accountable for irregular payments it received during the 2017 general elections.
But more telling was the Secretariat’s response to a resolution to engage USAid’s International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES) on the acquisition of the requisite Result Transmission System (RTS).
IFES, which procured the 2013 election servers, had made it known that this time it had earmarked Sh2 billion through its Kenya Electoral Assistance Programme (KEAP).
The secretariat, as in the other cases, reportedly disregarded this decision. IEBC’s lack of enthusiasm can be explained. On Jamhuri Day 2016, President Uhuru Kenyatta had, without divulging details, spoken out against what he termed foreign countries’ attempt to influence Kenya’s elections through suspicious funding.
Exactly a week later, the NGO Coordination Board, then headed by Mr Fazul Mohamed, declared IFES illegal in Kenya and asked Central Bank to freeze its bank accounts.
Instructively, the IFES funding was to be a grant. Instead, IEBC awarded Safran the Sh4.19 billion Kiems contract against a budget of Sh3.8 billion. The Auditor General would later indicate an overpayment, contrary to the law.
Intriguingly, IEBC further paid Safran for the same goods and services during the FPE. The comparative costs for the August 8, 2017 election and the subsequent poll indicate huge over-pricing for the latter, despite it being just one election against the six during the General Election.
The difference was a mere Sh1.672 billion yet the August Election involved acquisition of 45,000 KIEMS and their configuration, training and logistics while (FPE) entailed the purchase of just 15,000 KIEMS.
But more disturbing, the cost of FPE election-day support of Sh443.8 million “was almost twice that of the General Election”, that’s Sh242.5 million, according to the audit.
In defence, IEBC argued that there was an increase in Safran technical personnel, from 94 during the General Election to 292 in the FPE, a position the Auditor General found wanting. In fact, not all the technical staff were deployed during the FPE and “in any case, elections did not take place in 21 constituencies”.
Despite the inflated cost, the glitches in the General Election also littered the FPE. In fact, the October 26 Election was a replica of — if not worse — than the August 8 General Election.
However, Safran couldn’t be held liable for non-compliance, for the contract of September 28, 2017, was without guarantee of compensation in case of non-execution. This is because the firm flatly declined to provide performance security bond for the huge undertaking.
It argued that such a bond and a Letter of Credit (which it had) “serve the same purpose”.
(A bond is a specified amount of money to ensure work is performed to the contract standards. If poor, the recipient can request bond funding to be released to hire someone else to complete the work. Letter of Credit promises that payments will be made; it covers payment for a project).
Later, it emerged that Chiloba had discussed with Safran about the issue of performance security and agreed with the company’s position. He reasoned that at the time the contract was signed, Safran “had performed more than 60 per cent of the contract” in what he termed as a “high risk” venture.
Against this background, it would appear Safran was the master here; IEBC merely complied. “Retaining one company over a long time puts the organisation at the risk of compromise,” says Dr Nyanjom.
Certainly we have never seen this type of investigative reporting, yet, for the momentous election of 2007.
The exposure of the rejection of USAID’s allocated funding for purchase of the Results Transmission System (RTS) under the Kenya Electoral Assistance Program 2017 (KEAP) is fascinating. This could explain a discrepancy I have been a bit concerned about. I was told that we (the United States) were funding the KIEMS system and had high confidence in it (this time), based on other implementations of the same system elsewhere. Then the USAID press office said after the election as I worked on a piece for The Elephant that we had not in fact paid for it. Perhaps the first report was not so much flatly wrong information as a good faith assumption that did not pan out when the planned assistance was rejected?
Unfortunately, I am left with concern about why USAID and IFES went ahead with the Kenyan Election Assistance Program, including IFES’ work directly with the IEBC and its management of the NDI and IRI components after the rejection of the RTS funding to proceed with Safran-Morpho. Especially since IFES had already been attacked by the Jubilee Party and the Government of Kenya and had to replace the highly qualified incumbent country director apparently to appease the incumbent. See “Why has Uhuru Kenyatta’s government acted against USAID and IFES?” from December 20, 2016. “State now expels American NGO’s boss, Genet Menelik” Standard on Sunday, Jan 1, 2017.
The background for my reaction to this news includes the unexplained “shelving” by the ECK in 2007 of laptop computers purchased for it by USAID which facilitated the alteration of paper tally sheets at the ECK central headquarters in Nairobi to deliver the election to the incumbent and the “failure” of the RTS in 2013, which was attributed to a failed procurement by the president of IFES in subsequent U.S. Congressional testimony.
One could wonder if the Government of Kenya has opted not to lean on the Nation in this instance, tacitly permitting the expose to at least the current extent? One could wonder if the US Mission in Kenya and/or other donors are not seeking to step up on this in the relative tranquillity of the post-handshake, pre-referendum and/or full fledged 2022 campaign? Any of that would be speculation and I do not claim any insight as to what has caused a crack in the edifice. [Update: I have learned, and should have guessed, that underlying the reporting is research from AfriCOG/KPTJ, the Kenyan civil society free election sojourners.]
Regardless of the reason this news is seeing “the light of print” (and the World Wide Web), it would seem with hard work in follow up there might be an opening to start to “lance the boil” of corrupt election management in Kenya.
I am still reviewing the full report, but in summary:
Kenya’s 2017 general electoral process was marred by incidents of unrest and violence throughout the extended electoral period and by harsh attacks by top political leaders on electoral and judicial authorities that seriously undermined the independence of the country’s democratic institutions and the rule of law. The confrontational tactics and actions of Kenya’s political leaders polarized the country and exposed the deep tribal and ethnic rifts that have long characterized its politics. Regrettably, the elections represent a major setback in Kenya’s democratic development.
As far as pre-election deficiencies the report notes the late appointment of the IEBC Commissioners leaving inadequate preparation time overall, as well as highlighting a voter register that was improved but still had major inadequacies.
The report, while noting the ELOG parallel sample results as consistent with the IEBC’s announced results, emphasizes the problems with post- voting results transmission and announcement (in the context of that confrontational rhetoric and polarized environment):
Unfortunately, for unexplained reasons, the IEBC did not utilize the full seven-day period provided by the law to consolidate and post all the official polling station results forms. Instead, the IEBC hastily declared the final presidential election results on Aug. 11, just three days after election day, based on the constituencylevel results forms, and prior to the receipt of all polling-station level results forms. Worse still, election authorities failed to ensure that parties had timely access to official polling-station level results in the days following the announcement of official results, which made it impossible for parties and observers to fully verify and cross-check the results against their internal data and reports in time to include any key evidence in court petitions.
Recent political posturing over the 2022 presidential election and the upcoming national census and boundary delimitation process raises concerns that an electoral reform process could be delayed.
To move electoral reform forward, parliament should move swiftly to ensure that the requisite number of IEBC commissioners are in place. Meaningful reform cannot be implemented without a fully functioning commission.
The Democratic Republic of Congo stands out as a wealthy country with mostly very poor voters, a fairly poor government, extremely poor governance, high corruption, pervasive political violence, a current humanitarian crisis on a Yemani scale and as a “honeypot” for some of the worst people in the world.
In Congress, Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he approved of Mr. Kabila’s decision — “after 17 dark and bloody years” — to step down.
“Now, deadly government crackdowns must stop so the Congolese people can choose their next president in free, fair and transparent elections,” Mr. Royce said. “Any credible election will allow opposition candidates to run campaigns free from legal harassment, intimidation and physical harm.”
A decent election in December would be a huge “win” for Congolese and for international democracy advocates but sobriety is in order as to whether that becomes a realistic possiblity as the much-delayed date approaches.
At the time of the last election in 2011, Africa democratizers were buoyed by an understood success story in Ghana, the hope of an “Arab Spring”, the lull of violence in Iraq and more generally encouraging environment. As explained in my posts from that time, the U.S.- funded International Observation Mission (conducted by the Carter Center) found the election to fall short of adequacy by the applicable international standards and said so explicitly.
Initially standing up to Kabila over the failures of his alleged re-election and pushing for them to be addressed appeared to be U.S. policy. If so, we apparently changed our mind for some reason. Tolerating a bad election then leaves us in a more difficult position with seven years of water under that bridge. The U.S. has stepped up recently to pressure Kabila to schedule the election, allow opposition and stand down himself.
In this vein, we need to be careful, and transparent, as things proceed to continue to evaluate realistically what is feasible and where we are really able and willing to assist. In particular, the decision to initiate and fund one or more Election Observation Missions for a vote in these circumstances should involve serious soul-searching at the State Department (and/or USAID).
To the best of my knowledge and recollection, none of the various Election Observation Mission reports from Kenya for the March 2013 election covered the role of SCL Group of Britain (subsequent parent of Cambridge Analytica) for Uhuru Kenyatta. Nor were other foreign contractors for either side addressed to a substantial degree. [I will check back on this and add reference to anything I find.]
Likewise, I do not believe that Cambridge Analytica, SCL or Harris Media were examined in the 2017 Election Observation reporting. [I covered the final reports from the EUEOM here (January) and the Carter Center here (March).]
Read the whole thing — that is what we American taxpayers have paid for. In summary: “Regrettably, the elections represent a major setback in Kenya’s democratic development.”
(h/t Daniel Finan of RFI English)
Update: (As of this morning, 8 March) I was not able to find the Final Report or related material on the Carter Center website.)
Most recently the Center had summarized: “The Carter Center said that the fresh presidential election was not fully competitive and marked by insecurity and political uncertainty. It called for national dialogue and reconciliation process to heal political and tribal rifts that were made worse by the 2017 elections.”
The succession concern may likely have resonance in Washington given U.S. interests, although my sense is that the economic boycotts are the most salient message in Nairobi. During the PEV period following the corrupted 2007 election, ODM backed off on threats of such economic boycotts which seemed risky as unprecedented and perhaps perceived to be “over the top”.
This is the underlying reality that I have routinely pointed out privately as well as mentioned here. No president in Kenya has ever lost a re-election. Uhuru Kenyatta had a decision to make as to whether he was willing take a risk of losing at the polls or not. (In 2007 it was clear, as seen with hindsight, that Mwai Kibaki was not willing to take that risk. He controlled the ECK accordingly.)
Peace Wall Kibera Nairobi Kenya 2008
Under the new Constitution adopted by virtue of the 2008 Post Election Violence settlement and with effectuation of some reform, the new Supreme Court to almost everyone’s surprise held its independence and applied the law to find that the IEBC did not meet the minimum requirements of the law in declaring the President re-elected without full and reliable results under required procedures. Even in this context the Court was careful not to blame the President or the Executive branch for the use of state resources and the underlying irregularities and illegalities that were seemingly born as orphans within the IEBC.
Since the Supreme Court’s ruling the Court and the Judiciary have been under attack from the Executive just as the IEBC has been under attack by the opposition. On balance, the international diplomatic community re-iterated its ongoing multi-year endorsement of the IEBC, consistent with the “Preliminary Statements” of the major international election observation missions in 2013 and on August 10, 2017. On balance, the international diplomatic community has said little about protecting and preserving the hard won independence of the Judiciary.
Today, the Supreme Court fell. The Interior Minister signaled an intent to order that today be a public holiday (“election day eve”?) and the driver of the Deputy Chief Justice was shot while running an errand in the Justice’s car. When the Court convened to hear and decide the urgent matter of whether the presidential election nullified from August 8 could be conducted by the IEBC tomorrow in light of the Court’s previous ruling, only the Chief Justice and one associate showed up.
With a majority of the Supreme Court “missing in action” the Chief Justice determined that no quorum existed, the hearing could not be held so that so that there is no authority to determine the law separate from the President who has declared throughout that his one “irreducible minimum” requirement is that the presidential vote be held on October 26.
Then the High Court ruled on a separate challenge—reminiscent of Judge Leonola’s ruling in 2013 on AfriCOG’s petition to enjoin the vote tally by the IEBC after the “failure” of the results transmission system—that jurisdiction to challenge actions involving the presidential election rests only at the quorumless Supreme Court.
It is clear to all that the IEBC is not ready, and belated calls have been coming to postpone the vote but the bet on the IEBC was already placed and when the diplomatic community chose to leave it down in the face of the dramatic defection of Roselyne Akombe, whose name is now usually “one commissioner”, the game may be over on that front.
I do not assume that writ large this outcome in Kenya constitutes the fruition of or is consistently underwritten by some coherent foreign policy agenda of the United States and/or the UK or other Western countries that have supported the ECK/IIEC/IEBC over the past 15 years. This is the third U.S. administration to be involved in this scenario and going back even through the entirety of Kenya’s history the persistent thread is that we support the President (whether we like or respect him).
Uhuru Kenyatta has specific relationships of various sorts among certain American elites, but that is a very different—and perhaps contradictory—thing from the idea that Kenyatta’s behavior supports specific foreign policy objectives of the United States. The great strength of the United States as a relatively open, chaotic society with turnover and diffusion of power is that much of what is often seen as “policy” from more repressive vantage points is more like “stuff that happens” seen from within our system.
[Nonetheless, I will have more detailed and informed opinions about the August elections when I finally get from USAID documents I requested in 2015 about our support for the IEBC in 2013.]
Events of the last few days are more twists, turns and wrenching associated with Kenya’s status as being stuck or frozen by the stolen election of 2007 and its aftermath, pending forward movement to truly realize a new system under the new constitution approved overwhelmingly in 2010, or back into a now-digitized/globalized version of a single party power structure based on elite-level tribal bargains.
Based on the 2013 election and Kenyan history, in the immediate run the continued retrenchment of democracy is surely likely, but we can hope otherwise. And most importantly, Kenyans can keep their eyes on the horizon and recognize that much of the work of getting Kenya (back?) to the state of democratic openness that was preceived to have existed in the early times after the defeat of KANU at the polls in 2002 will remain regardless of who is president.
And the vital task of acheiving a transparent and trustwothy, bona fide independent electoral commission must not stop with the immediate “fresh election” regardless of when it is or whatever limited progress is obtained through current NASA demands for “irreducible minimums”.
ODM and Wiper and other parties made a mistake by waiting until early 2016 to focus on forcing reforms of the Issaak Hassan “Chickengate” IEBC of the badly administered 2013 election. Even though agreement was obtained to replace the Commission with loss of life of protestors killed by police by mid-2016, the old Hassan Commission stayed in control until early this year, after budgets and plans (and some contracts apparently) were in place, assistance programs by the United States and others contracted–and apparently adjusted by demand of the incumbent ruling party.
The new Commission inherited Hassan’s staff and remains quite murky as to the extent that they are de facto independent enough to effectively manage and discipline that staff. The selection process was messy and murky and the Vice Chair of the Commission turns out not to have resigned her job with the UNDP but rather taken “leave” of undisclosed terms while serving. Are other Commissioners of uncertain independence from other players in administration of the elections? (I am not concluding that Dr. Akombe is not independent of the UNDP–just that there are unavoidable questions which neither the UNDP nor Dr. Akombe seem willing to address–nor Kenya’s media to take up.)
No incumbent president in Kenyan history has been found by Kenya’s election management body to have lost an election–certainly the opposition has always known it had an uphill battle to have real hope of winning, aside from the fact that the incumbents have strong support in their bases and were ahead by a few points in most polls as of late July. In this environment, the failure to achieve deeper reform of the old IEBC by early 2017 was probably fatal to a real chance to win all other things being equal.
The surprising and gutsy decision of the Supreme Court of Kenya to rule that the IEBC’s conduct was just too far beyond the pale to pass legal muster gave everyone another chance, but of course it did not change any hearts and minds of people who were never willing to risk of losing office at the polls in a free and fair vote.
The United States and other donors attracted a lot of published advice from its own employees and through indirectly supported sources like the International Crisis Group stressing the importance of transparency for trust building but elected instead to continue to stay the course of underwriting the ECK-IIEC-IEBC and publicly promoting its output to Kenyans without re-consideration of the risks and costs of non-transparency and undisclosed failures with the electoral management process, such as the alleged bribery in 2007 that warranted undisclosed US “visa bans” and the subsequent “Chickengate” bribes and the bogus procurements of technology that left Kenyans exposed again in 2013.
This is not rocket science. Kenyans who are increasingly divided by tribalism as their politicians offer and deliver less democracy and less other models of leadership, are more likely to accept and trust what they are openly shown and explained.
I will be prepared to more substantively address the 2017 vote/s once I get the documents I am due and expecting from my 2015 FOIA request about the 2013 election. Until then, we can still decide to do what we know can be most helpful to build trust if we want to.
Today the Carter Center Election Observation Mission released an additional report discussing briefly the findings and proceedings of the Supreme Court of Kenya in deciding the presidential election petition but primarily focused on the negotiations and preparations for the “fresh election” scheduled by the IEBC for 26 October.
There has been some public controversy and debate, as well as confusion, about the role of the UNDP in the funding and management of this years Kenyan election to a degree that was not apparent in the last two cycles. The UN is a big presence in the Nairobi and Kenyan economic and political scene, so it hardly surprising that their role in the overall outside democracy assistance program would come into scrutiny where things went badly and the election was annulled. Most recently there was an offer made by the IEBC to have the UNDP undertake ballot paper procurements, for instance, which was declined by the candidates. (I am not ready to wade into the thickets of the controversy about the fact that the most public face of the Commission itself other than the Chairman has retained her employment with UNDP in a leave status while accepting appointment from the President and taking office as an IEBC Commissioner in January and related matters,)
From an EU report at the beginning of the year:
The UNDP-led “Strengthening the Electoral Processes in Kenya Project” aims to strengthen Kenya’s electoral institutions, systems and processes in Kenya in view of the 2017 elections.
Following the EU’s support to Kenya during the 2013 elections, the EU is capitalising on the lessons learnt from that period to provide a better electoral support mechanism for future elections. The EU’s financial contribution to “Strengthening the Electoral Processes in Kenya” aims to develop stronger legal and institutional structures that will lead to transparent, credible and peaceful elections, as well as leading to more informed participation in the electoral process. In particular, we expect:
a strengthened institutional and legal framework for the electoral processes;
a strengthened participation of voters, parties and candidates in the electoral process with emphasis on women, youth and disabled
the delivery of more efficient, transparent and peaceful elections
a strengthened electoral justice and increased compliance with the electoral framework
The programme supports activities that cover the whole country. Beneficiaries of it include the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which will be the largest recipient of the programme’s assistance. Other beneficiaries include Kenyan institutions and organisations involved in the drafting of legislation, dispute resolution between political parties, media regulation, women’s empowerment and security, including:
the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties
the Kenya Law Reform Commission
the Judiciary and Political Parties Disputes Tribunal
the Director of Public Prosecutions
the Police Service
the National Cohesion and Integration Commission
other government agencies including county governments
civil society (including women movements) and media
The EU is contributing EUR 5 million to a projected total basket fund amount of EUR 21,5 million (US$24 million). The other donors to the “Strengthening the Electoral Processes in Kenya” project are currently DFID and USAID; some other donors might also join. To date (as of January 2017) US$14.65 million has been raised. The basket fund became operational in the second half of 2015, and activities will last till the end of 2018. The implementing partner is UNDP, with support from UNWOMEN.