, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 14 – The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has moved to shore confidence in its decision to contract Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing for the printing of ballot papers for the August General Election.
IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati on Wednesday, in response to concerns raised by Opposition leader Raila Odinga, announced the Commission would send a ‘monitoring delegation’ to Dubai to “witness, confirm and verify” in writing “that the desired quantity of ballot papers has been printed, stitched and packaged into pallets.”
The delegation, Chebukati said, would include representatives of all eight presidential candidates, a representative from the civil society, three representatives from the media, a representative from the Inter-religious Council and a representative from the Kenya Bureau of Standards.
“I do believe the main worry raised by Raila Odinga who is a presidential candidate is on the credibility of the firm which is printing the ballot papers. The fear is that there’ll be more ballot papers printed and I believe that if a team goes and participates in the whole process, it will be the best way to address those concerns.”
The delegation, Chebukati said, would be dispatched on June 22 with the printing presses expected to start churning out the ballot papers on June 25.
Before then, Chebukati said he would be meeting with the presidential aspirants or their representatives in person on Thursday, to address their concerns.
Already, he said, the Commission had met with the two dominant players on the political scene – Jubilee and the National Super Alliance – on May 24 and took their concerns into consideration before re-awarding the ballot papers printing tender to Al Ghurair.
All litigation filed around the initial award of the tender to Al Ghurair, Chebukati defended, had nothing to do with the capability of the firm to deliver on the election materials but was restricted to the tendering process.
Chebukati however failed to take note that the concerns raised by Odinga have nothing to do with the firm’s ability to deliver on the contract and everything to do with the circumstances surrounding the awarding.
Odinga claims the owners of the firm are intimately acquainted with the Kenyatta family and have on several occasion engaged with President Uhuru Kenyatta himself.
He claims IEBC Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba was introduced to the printing firm’s owners at State House and now wants him to step aside terming him “the single most serious threat to the holding of a free and fair election.”
Odinga’s National Super Alliance has also demanded that the tender to Al Ghurair be cancelled stating that IEBC’s argument, that there is simply no time to switch printers, fails to hold water.
“The country has in the past always conducted nominations three weeks to voting day and this has always been sufficient time for printing of ballot papers to be completed.”
A statement that may have failed to take into account that there are 14,522 candidates gunning for 1,888 posts following the adoption of new governance structure.
Chiloba has on his part questioned the timing of the concerns raised by Odinga given Al Ghurair has printed the ballot papers, election result declaration forms and poll registers for all by-elections held since 2014.
“We’ve had several by-elections. And where did we print out our ballot papers? It was in Dubai. So all the more than 20 by-elections we’ve had, printing has always been with Al Ghurair and no one has ever raised an issue over that matter. So it’s only coming to the fore at this particular point probably because of the General Election.”
This time round, Odinga has skin in the game and the Jubilee party has accused him of simply seeking to have the election postponed out of fear of losing. “We are a little bit tired of tantrums from Raila. The only way he will be satisfied is if Oburu Odinga chairs IEBC.”