, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 15 – The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will not cancel the ballot papers printing tender it has awarded to the Dubai-based Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing Company.
IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati said after a consultative meeting with representatives of presidential candidates Thursday that the Commission would go ahead with the process, since “it is not easy to achieve consensus among political competitors.”
“The Commission wishes to assure the country of its commitment to have ballot papers delivered on time. The Commission is bound by the provisions of Article 249 of the Constitution which obligates it to protect the sovereignty of the people of Kenya,” Chebukati said.
“In doing so, the Commission is only subject to the Constitution and the law and is not subject to direction or control by any person or authority,” he said, while explaining that the independence of the IEBC will not be compromised.
He said stakeholders have been briefed on a number of measures put in place to ensure ballot paper control on poll day, and dismissed as mere allegations claims that IEBC officials had improper dealings with government officials and those of Al Ghurair.
“We shared with stakeholders the procurement process and why we chose the Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing Company; measures being put in place for ballot paper control, reconciliation on the polling day and stakeholder participation in ballot printing and deployment monitoring,” the head of the electoral agency said after meeting stakeholders who included presidential candidates Ekuru Aukot (Thirdway Alliance) and Michael Wainaina (Independent).
“Should the Commission receive any evidence implicating any of its staff, it shall not hesitate to take action. So far, the claims made against our officers are mere allegations.”
ODM presidential candidate Raila Odinga has cried foul over awarding of the tender to Al Ghurair, with Musalia Mudavadi – the head of his campaign team – alleging that the firm is involved in a conspiracy to print excess ballot papers to be used in rigging the August 8 elections.
These claims were however dismissed by the Jubilee Party Secretary General Raphael Tuju who represented President Uhuru Kenyatta at the meeting.
He asserted there was no such meeting between the Head of State and Majid Saif al Ghurair, the Chief Executive of the Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing Company awarded the Sh2.5 billion ballot printing tender, or his representatives.
He termed the allegations as falsehoods being peddled by the National Super Alliance (NASA) in fear of an imminent election loss.
“We have done our due diligence and it is not the same Al Ghurair who is involved in the printing company. The Al Ghurair who met the president is one involved in cement and oil industry and he came in his capacity as chairperson of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce,” Tuju said.
“Our position as a party is that the printing could be done by anybody – including companies belonging to the NASA principals – at the end of the day it is Kenyans who will vote,” he added.
NASA, represented at the meeting by former ombudsman Otiende Amolo, city lawyer Paul Mwangi, former Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) secretariat boss Norman Magaya and Hamida Kibwada maintained a hard-line position that the elections cannot proceed under the current ballot paper printing arrangements.
“The position that we have taken is that we shall not be accompanying any of the other representatives of presidential candidates to Dubai and we shall not be participating in any meetings to deal with printing of ballot papers until IEBC satisfactorily deals with allegations that were made and confirms the contact with Al Ghurair was appropriate or otherwise,” Mwangi said arguing the other firms that had expressed interest should instead be awarded the tender.
“The entity that prints the ballot papers should not have association with any political player,” his colleague Amollo said.
Presidential aspirants Aukot and Wainaina on their part called on IEBC to exercise independence in light of allegations that NASA had a preferred firm they wanted awarded the lucrative ballot printing contract.
“We are appalled by the developing story that cast doubt on the award of the tender. If these reports are true, the credibility of the poll is already compromised,” Aukot said in the company of Wainaina.
Other candidates eyeing the presidency are Cyrus Jirongo of the United Democratic Party (UDP), Abduba Dida of the Alliance for Real Change (ARC), and Independent candidates Joseph Nyagah and Japheth Kavinga.