NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 2 – The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) spent Thursday morning defended its decision to cancel the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) tender and outlining its preparedness for the 2013 General Election.
Appearing before a joint parliamentary committee of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committees, IEBC chairman Isaack Hassan said that two of the shortlisted bidders failed in the due diligence report while the other two quoted above IEBC’s budget.
Hassan, though without further explanation said the decision was made after the process became ‘murky’ and after it was infiltrated by ‘extraneous’ factors.
“Two of the four shortlisted bidders failed the due-diligence test; while the other two quoted above the commissions’ budget. The nation is disappointed, we are also disappointed but nothing is lost. We’ve learned our lesson. I know we’ve tripped, but we’re not out,” the IEBC chairman said.
He told the joint committee chaired by Githunguri MP Njoroge Baiya that reverting to the registration through the Optic Mark Reader (OMR) will save the commission time ahead of the elections as it was used in the 2010 referendum.
He said that contrary to belief that the manual registration is easy to be tampered with, there will be no room for double registration.
Hassan assured that the commission will collaborate with all stakeholders including the Registrar of Persons to rid the register off dead voters.
IEBC will now update the voters’ register that was used at the referendum even though the number of constituencies had been increased from 210 to 290. Voters will be allowed to change their polling areas.
MPs who constantly referred to the report of the Justice (rtd) Johann Kriegler-led Independent Review Commission were however not convinced that there was no time to revive the BVR tender process and termed the move to manual as dangerous.
Kimilili MP Eseli Simiyu asked the commission to reconsider the decision on the BRV tender saying that there should be found a way in law that the process is fast tracked.
“I beg this commission to relook into this decision because the election we are going to is going to be too emotive. Going manual is too high a risk to take now,” said the MP.
Justice Minister Eugene Wamalwa who was in attendance also asked IEBC to consider hiring BVR kits from Ghana.
The chairman and the Commission’s CEO James Oswago said the posting electoral officers will be such that the commission staff will not oversee elections in their home areas.
“Dead voters can only vote if there’s collusion from the highest level to the lowest level in the commission,” said Oswago.
Hassan while responding to a question by Gachoka MP Mutava Musyimi insisted that there is no division amongst the commissioner and the CEO James Oswago.
“As a commission, we’re united. There are no divisions among commissioners; there is no division between the commission and the secretariat,” said Hassan terming the reported differences as a perception.
The IEBC chairman added that the electoral body had been notified of the violence hotspots and had already trained its officials on how to handle the conflict.
He said his commission had already spoken to security agencies to ensure law and order at polling time.