NAIROBI, Kenya, June 17 – The Thirdway Alliance presidential candidate Ekuru Aukot is now calling on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to remove the component of presidential ballot paper printing from the tender awarded to Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing company.
Aukot argued during a press conference on Saturday that the contention on the Sh2.5 billion ballot printing tender awarded to the Dubai firm could erode Kenyans’ confidence in presidential poll results, if mishandled.
“IEBC should remove the component of printing of the Presidential Ballot Papers from Al Ghurair to be given to a neutral party under supervision of the Election Observers led by the United Nations if they claim that there no time. There’s sufficient time to be able to print at least presidential ballot papers by another independent entity,” the Thirdway leader said.
Aukot wondered why it was that lucrative poll contracts could not be awarded to local firms yet the country had one of the most successful technology industry acclaimed globally.
“Kenya is quoted as leader of innovation in Africa but we recently siphoned Sh 3.8 billion to Safran Identity to provide a solution for election management and transmission that could have been developed in Kenya, and now a further Sh2.5 billion to Al Ghurair, again, for products that can be reasonably sourced from Kenya,” he posed.
The law legal expert who also served as Secretary of the Committee of Experts (CoE), which crafted the Constitution of Kenya (2010) said that firms such as De La Rue – whose Kenyan subsidiary is 40 per cent owned by the government – could easily deliver the ballot tender given its experience in money printing which requires even more security.
The ballot printing tender has been subject of a heated debate with the main political outfits said to be having a preferred printer.
Raila Odinga, who is vying on an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket under the banner of the National Super Alliance (NASA) was the first to provoke a salvo of accusations linking the First Family to Al Ghurair, with his campaign chief Musalia Mudavadi saying the firm was planning to print excess ballot papers to be used in rigging the election.
The Jubilee Party responded early in the week with its Secretary General Raphael Tuju linking Odinga to a South African firm – Paarl Media – which was also eyeing the lucrative IEBC tender.
According to Aukot, the IEBC also needed to assert its authority while discharging its mandate so that it does not appear to be appeasing the Jubilee or NASA.
“IEBC must jealously protect its independence and reject any attempt by both Jubilee and NASA from destroying our country,” he urged.
IEBC Chairperson Wafula Chebukati on Thursday said after a consultative meeting with representatives of presidential candidates that the Commission would go ahead with ballot printing 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 added, while explaining that the independence of the IEBC will not be compromised.
The commission has since welcomed presidential candidates to provide a list of representatives who will travel to Dubai to witness the printing of ballots in a bid to allay fears that the process is infiltrated by political actors.