In my last post, I explored the fact that Amb. Kyle McCarter is the United States’ first Ambassador to Kenya to come from a background in elective politics. Because he had just done what seemed to be a well-received television interview I added in introductory material to the original draft to reflect that.
In the aftermath of following the interview with an invitation for questions on Twitter, the Ambassador got drawn into the Kenyan controversy about the Chinese-Kenyan Amu Power coal plant proposed for the Lamu area on the Coast. My sense is that he seemed to respond to a Kenyan political and legal controversy as a politician would in asserting his own opinion and judgment based on his own experience and positions–an easy thing to do on Twitter–in a quite different way than a diplomat would normally react.
In the context of following this discussion, I did a bit of quick updating on the internet of the status of the coal mining industry in Sen. McCarter’s former State Senate district in Illinois. By coincidence I spent some time visiting in the area as a young lawyer back in the 1990s and knew that at that time there was a perception of economic strain associated with a decline in local mining employment. I after going through some history of mining, I found a recent article in a local newspaper about a young mayor of a town in the area responding to the economic circumstances by promoting solar energy in his immediate community. I shared the article with the Ambassador and a Kenyan leader on the citizen fight against corruption in the power generation and resale businesses in Kenya (as opposed to an anti-coal activist or someone otherwise involved in the Lamu case).
The Ambassador responded tartly that coal provided 95% of the power in his region in Illinois, he knew the mines and plants, and that coal was the cleanest and cheapest approach to needed power in the context of the highest environmental standards in the world. Further, he was not inclined to be persuaded by “well paid activists” and that “facts are stubborn things.”
This furthered an impression–hopefully not intended–that the Ambassador was weighing in on the Kenyan legal and policy controversy about the Chinese-Kenyan Amu Power deal.
Likewise, this generated pushback form “Kenyans on Twitter” who felt patronized or insulted, as well as those who have a different view on “macro” issues relating to power generation and environmental issues than they interpreted the Ambassador to have Tweeted. As for me, I had just intended to share an interesting recent news article, without comment, and not to get under anyone’s skin, or debate the philosophy of coal economics in the global context.
One thing is certain with active Twitter use: all of us who Tweet actively will “step in it” sometimes. The Ambassador well knows this because his ultimate voice vote confirmation in the Senate was held up for some months in apparent reaction to a few previous Tweets that generated push back and follow-up. The Ambassador is also representing the United States and has a professional communications staff of public servants to help him.
(Noting “a hole in media reporting and public affairs announcements”:
Does your PVT receive funding from USAID (as per usual practice for these GNDEM PVT’s in Africa)? If so, what is the contractual arrangement for this funding? If not, how is the PVT funded? Thank you for a quick response given approaching deadlines!)
I did receive a response from MESN on June 6 to my inquiry:
Thank you for your media inquiry about MESN and our observation of the 2019 Tripartite Elections. MESN receives funding from an array of development funders. MESN’s funding for both long-term observation and the parallel vote tabulation (PVT) comes from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Malawi Electoral Integrity Program (MEIP) managed by the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS) . All questions about the terms and conditions of funding agreement should be addressed to USAID. I have attached for your information copies of our preliminary and verification statements.
From our Embassy before the vote:
At the Parallel Vote Tabulation Center in Blantyre, USAID Mission Director Lit Tazewell met with former🇿🇦President Thabo Mbeki, who is leading the Commonwealth observer mission to🇲🇼tripartite elections. Both men were learning more about the system to validate the election results pic.twitter.com/CKCJzGl62C
It might have been worthwhile for the Embassy to note in its May 23 Tweet that when “Both men were learning more about the system to validate the election results” the USAID Mission Director was visiting a USAID-funded program.
[You will notice if you read my previous posts I do not have any substantive criticism of how the PVT results were reported, rather I was inquiring about the funding prior to the reporting. I also noted in Zimbabwe that the reporting seemed to be carefully worded to avoid being misconstrued in the way that I have been concerned about in Kenya in 2013.]
Malawi PVT results from the Malawi Electoral Support Network shows:
• Dr. Lazarus Chakwera (MCP) between 32.8% and 37.4%;
• Dr. Saulous Klaus Chilima (UTM) between 18.8% and 21.4%;
• Professor John Eugene Chisi (UP) between 0.3% and 0.5%;
• Mr. Reverend Hadwick Kaliya (Independent) between 0.2% and 0.4%;
• Mr. Peter Dominic Sinosi Driver Kuwani (MMD) between 0.3% and 0.5%;
• Mr. Atepele Austin Muluzi (UDF) between 4.3% and 5.7%; and
• Mutharika between 36.4% and 40.8%.
The PVT estimates, listed above, are consistent with the MEC’s official presidential results and therefore, the PVT can independently verify that the official results for the presidential election as announced by MEC reflect ballots cast and counted at polling streams. While PVT does not provide evidence that the presidential results have been manipulated, the PVT results data cannot definitively determine the order for the two leading candidates because of the overlap in the estimated ranges.
With the incumbent announced as winning with a narrower margin and a total of less than 39% of the vote, with turnout over 75%, there will be questions and frustrations.
Since the election is so close, the PVT is likely to show either of the top two candidates as a possible winner, although it could be pretty interesting if it shows something different. Since it has been done for days presumably it was ready for release some time ago.
Update: It is worth looking carefully at the MESN Detailed Preliminary Statement from the PVT. In general it suggests the voting was well conducted. I would flag the seven percent of the sampled polling stations where the results were not posted. See the USAID-funded research paper from Posner and Osofu at UCLA I linked below for why they identify the lack of posting of results as one of their indicators of potential fraud. I have never any legitimate excuse for not posting the results at the polling station and it certainly seems fundamental to me. I would note that seven percent is, to my recollection, a much better performance than what the Carter Center observers were seeming in their Preliminary Statement in Kenya in 2013, although that was not structured as a “PVT” sample as such.
Under the USAID Malawi Electoral Integrity Program with CEPPS (the Consortium for Electoral Party and Process Strengthening)–the program under which NDI is providing “technical support” to the Parallel Vote Tabulation discussed in my last post–IFES is doing the work it has described in an April 2019 summary for the continent here:
Malawi Through the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS), IFES is supporting the 2019 tripartite elections under the “Malawi Electoral Integrity Program.” Particularly, IFES’ activities are focused on addressing electoral security through violence monitoring and incident reporting for more effective conflict mitigation and resolution, and by strengthening cooperation and information exchange between civil society, multiparty liaison committees and governmental electoral security actors, including the Malawi Election Commission (MEC). IFES will strengthen existing conflict mitigation and mediation platforms, support targeted interventions in areas identified as lhotspots, and raise public awareness about electoral violence, conflict mitigation and mediation tools available to the public. IFES will coordinate with the United Nations Development Programme on its “Malawi Electoral Cycle Support” program to build stronger linkages among the MEC and local stakeholders involved in conflict prevention.
As an example of a different permutation, for the 2017 election, USAID solicited proposals for agreements involving one overall organization, with sub-agreements for other workshare. In that case the program was awarded to IFES, with the IRI and NDI work (including the PVT piece) under subagreements with IFES rather than directly with USAID as I understand it (this is based on the USAID solicitation and award announcements; the agreement is not published).
I have not watched Malawi closely and do not have any idea of the specific contractual arrangements of the MEIP program for this year.
With the presidential results finalization delayed, this will put everyone under significant pressure and may involve some hard judgment calls. We will all have to hope for the best as far as both the election and any negative situations regarding violence or insecurity.
We present findings from a field experiment that estimates the causal effect of domestic election observers on election day malfeasance and downstream aggregation fraud in Malawi’s 2014 general elections. Our analyses leverage the random assignment of election observers to 1,049 polling stations located in a nationally representative sample of 90 constituencies. Since these polling stations already had observers assigned by other domestic monitoring organizations, our results speak to the marginal impact on electoral fraud of having an additional observer. We find that polling stations to which an additional observer was deployed had systematically lower rates of turnout and overvoting, and fewer votes for the presidential candidate who ultimately won the election—all results consistent with the deterrence of electoral fraud by the presence of the additional observer. We also find that the presence of the additional observer increases the likelihood that election results are not publicly posted, and that the non-posting of results is associated with an increased likelihood of aggregation fraud on behalf of the winning party, which we measure by comparing polling station-level election tallies with the official results reported by the Malawi Electoral Commission. We interpret this finding as suggesting that the presence of the additional observers may have displaced fraud from election day to the aggregation phase, and that the non-posting of the results may have been part of a conscious strategy to mask these efforts.
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.
It would seem that collectively we (the U.S.) want to recognize Tshisekedi as fait accompli and “not Kabila”, and make the most of the opportunity for a better relationship and progress while still holding a small flame against election fraud for the future and not be “complicit” in covering it up. I very much approve of not being complicit in a cover up even if we are just trying to make the best of the situation with good intentions.
In Kenya in 2008 we issued private travel sanctions against two members of the election commission, the then ECK, for suspected bribery, but said nothing publicly. In that case there was violence from the election fraud and we had withdrawn our initial congratulations. We never disclosed the sanctions or the issue or evidence regarding the bribery but I learned of the matter from a Daily Nation story from a stolen cable from Wikileaks:
The public sanctions now, to me, are a step forward in responding to election corruption and I appreciate that we are taking this step. I also appreciate the many people influential in Washington who have spoken out publicly on the problem and laid the groundwork for this, noting Amb. Michelle Gavin at CFR and Joshua Meservey at Heritage. And of course Nic Cheeseman of Democracy in Africa and the University of Birmingham has been a ubiquitous friendly voice for the democratic process throughout.
International Election Observation Mission members, including those from IRI/NDI, are arriving in Nigeria for the general election Saturday in a difficult environment.
Although invited by Nigeria’s government there has been at least one unwelcoming statement and no one could deny that this is a hard job simply from the stakes of the election, the instability in some areas, the poverty and underdeveloped infrastructure faced by large portions of the voting population and the simple relative newness of regular competitive elections.
International election observation, which focuses on civil and political rights, is part of international human rights monitoring and must be conducted on the basis of the highest standards for impartiality concerning national political competitors and must be free from any bilateral or multilateral considerations that could conflict with impartiality. It assesses election processes in accordance with international principles for genuine democratic elections and domestic law, while recognizing that it is the people of a country who ultimately determine credibility and legitimacy of an election process.
The IRI/NDI Nigeria 2015 Observation Mission was funded directly by the State Department so shifting back to USAID funding this time is one of the positive things that I see as having potential to help preserve independence and maintain clarity between an Assistance Observation and a Diplomatic Observation to the benefit of the process.
The joint IRI/NDI EOM model has positives and negatives in terms of actual and perceived independence. In Nigeria where democracy assistance is confronted by “resource curse” funded problems and lobbyists working “both sides of aisle” in Washington at a unusual level for an “African election”, along with prominent American campaign consultants usually involved, the joint model seems to me to have some important advantages over IRI or NDI doing a nonpartisan mission on its own, in-spite of the tradeoffs (alternatively you could go with the Carter Center as an “outside the beltway” if politically connected choice, or Democracy International as a truly private entity).
IRI in Africa from my now distant view has come quite far from some of the vulnerabilities that we faced in the 2007 Kenya Election Observation–experience is the best “capacity builder” and institutional funding and attention are now much more appropriate to the scope of the job. Some of my old Kenyan friends and colleagues who did such a great job running things on the ground in 2007 have stayed on and climbed the ladder. And we can expect this election in Nigeria to be better than their 2007 election, observed by many involved this year, as well.
Since Nigerian elections are always high profile and “on the map” in Washington there is no danger of overlooking the situation from that front. This Observation is long-planned and expected and well-funded; there have been an ongoing series of pre-election missions with reports on preparations. Likewise these observations have been going on with regularity throughout this century–and we’ve even been through the scenario of an incumbent seeking re-election during the Boko Haram war.
At the same time, you need no expertise to know that national elections are always challenging in Nigeria and that while cumulative progress has been made in some areas there are some particular concerns that have been reported on and discussed by this Observation Mission and others in the donor governments and media.
Thus, there may be hard calls ahead for the Observers, both on concerns they have already highlighted and from unexpected events as the voting, counting and disclosing play out.
American lobbyist and Ellen Johnston Sirleaf advisor Riva Levinson articulated part of the present challenge well in The Hill in Washington over the weekend: “At Risk: Credibility of U.S. democracy promotion in Africa“. Johnston Sirleaf is in Nigeria as lead observer for the ECOWAS intergovernmental Election Observation Mission and was co-lead for the most recent IRI-NDI Mission, “ZIEOM” in Zimbabwe.
UPDATE (Feb 12): Riva Levinson and her firm KRL are “registered foreign agents” in Washington for Retail Express Limited of Lagos, Nigeria. The Foreign Agent Registration Act filing from September 30, 2018 identifies this client as a “limited partnership which supports the goals of the Senate President of Nigeria, Dr. Aubakar Bukola Saraki, to engage international stakeholders in support of free and fair national elections in February, 2019, seek a level playing field for opposition parties, and convey the core tenants of the Senate President’s vision for the future of the country.” (She also currently lobbies for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Liberia and the Ministry of Finance of Ghana.)
Recent former diplomat and Council on Foreign Relations Africa lead Amb. Michelle Gavin had a notably hard-hitting CFR blog post last week headlined: “The Truth About United States Complicity in DRC’s Fraudulent Election” although in the text she just covers the macro level issue of diplomatically blessing an election whose official result was contrary to all available evidence.
We in the U.S. got partially off the hook in the DRC where the incumbent Kabila did not invite U.S.-funded or other international observers beyond the African diplomatic groupings (although I learned from Levinson’s piece that we provided funding for the Catholic Church run ‘Parallel Vote Count’, a fact I totally missed in the news reporting. USAID’s website indicates we were also providing “technical assistance” to the election management body CENI itself (!) which again I missed somehow in the news reports. These facts may have informed Gavin’s view even if the journalists that I read did not take notice.)
Update II (Feb 18): As it turns out, the U.S. not-for-profit IFES continued USAID-funded work with CENI, along with its partner IRI in the Coalition for Electoral Process and Party Strengthening (CEPPS) according to a brief overview on IFES’s website, and continues to work with CENI toward local elections. CENI hired its own Washington lobbying firm in 2018, Avenue Strategies, founded by former DJ Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski (he left and set up a separate firm before the CENI contract). In January 2019 after CENI named Felix Tshisekedi as president-elect, Avenue Strategies also signed on to represent Tshisekedi as president-elect and now president.
Presumably, then, under the CEPPS mechanism USAID funded the third partner, NDI, for the work with the Catholic Church Parallel Vote Count. I will contact USAID to confirm the arrangement and see if they are willing to release any contractual details without a formal Freedom of Information Act request.
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.
Kenya, after three problematic general elections (2007, 2013, 2017), might finally be showing some initial stirrings of organic action to start to address fraud within the Election Commission. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has announced today the termination of Ezra Chiloba, Chief Election Officer, after a long suspension.
The last two elections were plagued by technology problems, with the 2017 vote annulled by the Supreme Court. The donors, including USAID which directly funded failed purchases in 2013, and funded a major embedded role with the IEBC for IFES throughout these years, have remained conspicuously mute on reforms and corruption issues involving the Electoral Commissions.
In the past, after opposition protests, the Commissioners from the 2007 and 2013 elections were given lucrative buyouts to pave the way for a new slate, and impunity for bribery and procurement fraud issues was the informal consensus policy among the Kenyan politicians and the Western donors supporting the election process.
After the buyout of the Commission led by Issack Hassan which had failings in the 2013 vote, Chief Election Officer Chiloba was carried over under the new Commission on through the 2017 vote. Since 2017 we have now seen three Commissioners resign in addition to Commissioner Akombe who fled country during the tensions following the Supreme Court’s annulment of the August presidential vote. The remaining Commissioners have now acted to fire Chiloba after internal audits and a report by Kenya’s Auditor General raised “charges . . . on major procurements.”
See today’s announcement:
The next step is to release to the public the audit reports indicating “charges” and refer the matters for legal proceedings.
In the meantime, several more months have gone by without any further release from the USAID FOIA office on my 2015 request for the documents from their support of the IEBC through IFES for the 2013 vote.