For three years running, Kenya has ranked below Nigeria in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, coming in most recently tied at 145 in the list of 176 countries.
Even the most crucial security sectors, including most especially the police services (which, by the way, have received aid in training and other support from the United States since 1977) are pervasively corrupt and widely feared.
Under the circumstances it would be an extraordinary feat–rooted in a resolute act of will–for the Kenya’s IEBC (and its donors) to pull off a relatively clean and transparent election process. You will have to excuse me for being concerned after my experiences in 2007 and 2013.
So far, we have had special legislation passed by the ruling party early in the year in parliament over opposition objections to mandate a “manual” backup system for reporting the votes from the polling stations in the event the electronic system “fails” as it did in 2013. It is now barely more than 30 days before the vote and the IEBC has not explained what this manual system is. I was told in 2014 by a donor insider that in 2013 the IEBC had no “plan B” in place to obtain results from the polling stations even though they had gone ahead and scrambled, kicked observers out of the tally process, and announced final presidential results after the electronic reporting system was shut down. Clearly the IEBC needs a “plan B”–whatever it is–both as a practical matter and now as required by law. And it needs to be transparent, now.
The Kenyan court ruling that the votes as counted at the polling station are legally final and not subject to being unilaterally changed without legal proceedings by the central IEBC process certainly helps–but there must still be a process to gather the numbers as posted on the door of each polling station (and to note any polling stations where the results are not publicly posted as required). According to the EU and Carter Center election observation missions from the 2007 and 2013 elections, perhaps one-quarter to one-third of election officials at individual polling stations did not post the Form 34 showing the presidential vote count as required, so there has been ample room in each of these elections for numbers to change between the count of ballots and sealing of the ballot box at the polling station and the reported “tally” by which the president was named in Nairobi.
Unfortunately, a fair understanding of what happened in 2013 gets worse, in that it turns out that it would surely seem that the IEBC and the donors should have know ahead of time that the electronic reporting system was not going to work–but elected to project what must have been false confidence, followed by “surprise” at its failure. The president of IFES testified to the U.S. Congress in 2013 after the election that the failure was caused by a botched procurement. What was unsaid was that this was not just a procurement failure by the IEBC which IFES would have been expected to know about from its role as “embedded” within the IEBC to provide technical assistance, but that this was apparently also a botched United States government procurement from USAID through IFES, from what I eventually learned recently from my 2015 FOIA request as discussed in my post here from April:
“Kenya Election FOIA news: [heavily redacted] Election Assistance agreement shows US paid for failed 2013 “Results Transmission System”
From the Kenya Election and Political Process Strengthening (KEPPS) Program from USAID for the last Kenyan election:
“Considering the role that results transmission played in the 2007 election violence, IFES will build on its recent work with Kenya’s results transmission system to further enhance it and ensure its sustainability. IFES will ensure this system is fully installed, tested and operational for the 2012 election. Furthermore, IFES will fund essential upgrades and adjustments to this results transmission system.”
[p.28 of the Kenya Election and Political Process Strengthening 2012 Program – Cooperative Agreement between USAID and CEPPS (coalition of NDI, IFES and IRI)]
This USAID Agreement with the consortium of IFES, NDI and IRI makes up the first 236 pages of what I was told were approximately 1800 pages of documents and attachments provided by the USAID Mission in Kenya to the Washington FOIA office by January 2016 in response to my FOIA request of October 2015. Unfortunately, I have still not gotten any of the rest of these pages covering contract files and correspondence, as well as USAID transactions with Smith & Ouzman, Ltd., the British firm that was convicted of bribing Kenyan election and education officials to buy their products in the infamous “Chickengate” scandal.
In spite of persistent follow up over these many months, I don’t have any further information as to whether I am likely to get more of these documents released in time for the new election (under the current Kenya Electoral Assistance Program awarded to IFES last year).
Warnings about transparency have been outstanding for months from the International Crisis Group (See: International Crisis Group on “Kenya: Avoiding Another Electoral Crisis” calls on donors to show “complete transparency”; USAID is apparently not convinced yet.) and most recently Ambassador Mark Bellamy has published a June 29 assessment for the CSIS Africa Program noting the need for more transparency from the IEBC (Kenya’s Young Democracy Put to the Test.)
This year’s version of the “results transmission system” is wrapped into one big high risk procurement for the “Kenya Integrated Electoral Management System” of “KIEMS” which includes both the electronic voter identification system and the results transmission system. The ordinary procurement system failed to generate a legally sustainable award for this system. The new IEBC, running out of time, announced a sole source award this spring to one of the unsuccessful previous bidders, the French company Morpho.
A related company, Safran Morpho, was given a 2012 sole source award for the BVR kits for the 2013 election — which ended up with the election day use of a separate hard copy printed register at each of 30,000+ polling stations rather than an integrated and biometrically verified system. The sole source purchase in 2012 was announced as a “state to state” transaction–which eventually came out to mean some type of loan from the Canadian Government to the Government of Kenya (involving a Canadian subsidiary of the French parent). When the sole source transaction to buy the KIEMS system this spring was announced by the IEBC, it was reported in the media as again a “state to state” deal–with no details as to what states or what terms. The IEBC announcement gives no indication as to whether the reporting of a “state to state” deal is accurate or otherwise whether there is any donor funding involved.
Who has paid for and/or financed the KIEMS system? Will it work as advertised? If not, will the IEBC or the donors tell voters ahead of time?