At a briefing hosted this week by Kenya’s permanent internal election observation organization, ELOG, a Commissioner representing the IEBC indicated that the intention for the 2022 election was to reuse the KIEMS (“Kenya Integrated Election Management System”) system that was at the heart of the problems leading to the Supreme Court’s annulment of Kenya’s last presidential election.
Without scratching the surface into the deeper intrigues involving the re-election Of President Kenyatta and the technology involved, such as the pre-election abduction, torture and murder of acting ICT Director Chris Msando, or deported campaign consultants and police raids on data centres– not stuff for civil society seminars in Kenya–it would surely be the least Chairman Chebukati could do to explain why he and the Commission chose OT-Morpho/IDEMIA for the job in March 2013 in the first place.
Especially given that Kenya’s Parliament voted to debar IDEMIA and that Oberthur Technologies (OT) is subject to a world Bank debarment for bribery. Not to mention the firm’s strange role as a sole sourced substitute provider of problematic technology in 2013, when the Government of Canada stepped in to loan funds to the Government of Kenya to buy Biometric Voter Registration Kits after the supposedly independent IEBC had decided to go with a manual system instead. (According to what I’ve learned so far from a 2015 Freedom of Information Act request, IFES which was funded by USAID to assist the IEBC, reported back to USAID that the inability or unwillingness of the IEBC to resist this pressure from the Government to reverse its decision on the BVR system was a major setback in preparations for that election that reverberated through the failures with poll books and the Results Transmission in months ahead).
If the reasons for selecting OT-Morpho are to remain shrouded, the contracts themselves are public records and should be published. For some reason they do not appear to have been tabled in the 2017 Supreme Court cases about the presidential election–I am sure that was just an oversight and it is easily rectified now for the upcoming vote.
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.