NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 12 – With only 56 days to the August 8 General Election, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and a section of Members of Parliament have expressed fears over the state of preparedness should a Kenyan move to court to challenge the direct tendering and delivery of ballot papers.
Speaking when he appeared before the National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, IEBC CEO Ezra Chiloba said poll agency is already racing against time, facing high hurdles and confronting tough choices in trying to meet strict demands of the Elections Act.
He said the poll agency hopes to finalise hearing appeals relating to nomination of candidates by next week on Tuesday in order to allow the release of the artwork for the ballot paper to the contractor.
Chiloba said any attempt to nullify the contract awarded to Dubai-based Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing LLC and send the poll agency back to the drawing board would, ‘basically be planning for chaos.’
“There is the risk of litigation to challenge the procurement process, but I think the country has to reflect whether or not we should have an election in this type of scenario,” IEBC chief told the MPs noting that it would take another 21 days to secure another contract.
This view was reiterated by Kisumu Town West MP Alago Oluoch who chaired the meeting attended also by the Budget and Appropriations Committee Chairman Reverend Mutava Musymi (Mbeere).
“As a Committee we owe it to the nation as IEBC goes to make final arrangement for the printing of ballot papers and knowing that Kenyans have become highly litigious, they go to court for every little complaint and understanding that the Judiciary is independent; you cannot tell them what to do and what not to do. But we have to alert the Judiciary that this process that we are in now, if the courts allow it to be tempered with, then we are risking telling Kenyans that the IEBC will not hold elections on August 8, this year,” Oluoch stated.
This is the second blow to the procurement of the ballot papers in the last two weeks after the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board cancelled the award of the Sh2.5 billion tender.
Chiloba also pushed to defend the Commission’s decision to go for direct tendering in awarding the contract to Dubai based Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing LLC despite legal and procurement challenges that had been raised about it before the High Court and Public Procurement Administrative Review Board (PPRA)
The Opposition has already warned IEBC over awarding the contracting to the Al Ghurair following the removal of two senior managers, linking the wars to a push to award the deal to Al Ghurair, a publishing and security printing firm.
Chiloba was appearing before the House team to defend why it was seeking additional funds yet the same money was factored in the 2017/18 Budget.
The IEBC chief therefore asked the House to approve the allocation to give the Treasury the power to show commitment to the firm printing the ballot papers that the country would pay for them once delivered.
MPs had last Thursday declined to pass the Supplementary Estimates that would have given funds to the country’s electoral body to acquire ballot papers at a cost of Sh2.5 billion.
“The Commission wishes to request the Committee to approve a budgetary re-allocation or adjustment that would allow the Commission to access Letter of Credit facilities for purposes of securing the performance of the contract for the supply of ballot papers, results and poll register for the forthcoming General Election, he said.
Chiloba explained that Rotich only wanted to give a commitment through a bank guarantee that they would pay in order not to jeopardise the elections.
Budget and Appropriations Committee Clerk Fredrick Muthengi said there will be need for the Twelfth Parliament to introduce a Supplementary Budget immediately it convenes to capture the early withdrawal of the Sh2.5billion.
MPs and House Speaker Justin Muturi last week queried how the matter would be approached as the Appropriations Act 2017 that allocates funds among agencies and government departments funded by the national government has been passed.
Muthengi explained this will ensure the Commission does not get a double allocation as already the money was factored in the next Budget.
Chiloba said he was surprised that matter had been brought before Parliament, saying he had given National Treasury three options which included approaching the Central Bank to grant them a guarantee before the new financial year comes into effect on July 1.
The option by the National Treasury to approach the Kenya Commercial Bank for a credit line but this was ruled out by the MPs who argued that the 14 per cent interest it attracts was too high.
He said the Dubai-based firm wants to be paid by June 25 and start printing the ballot papers for the over 14,500 candidates -the Commission has cleared – by June 27.