Uncertainty hangs over the process of awarding the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) solution kits contract after the IEBC tender committee stepped aside last week. The team quit following weeks of squabbles pitting some IEBC commissioners against its secretariat and they have been tussling over which firm is the most suitable to be awarded the tender.
The Praxedes Tororey-led committee handed in their resignation on Friday, only days after CEO James Oswago appeared to reject their second report for the multibillion-shilling tender award. Oswago had written to the Public Procurement and Oversight Authority (PPOA) seeking guidance on the recommendation to award the tender to Face Technologies of South Africa that emerged third in cost evaluation.
Face Tech, which quoted Sh4.63 billion, was ranked third by the commission's technical evaluation committee behind 4G Identity Solutions of India and Symphony of Kenya with bids of Sh3.76 billion and Sh3.98 billion respectively. The committee also short-listed OnTrack of Israel which was asking for Sh8.31 billion to carry out the contract of supplying IEBC with the electronic voter registration kits.
Earlier the committee had recommended the award to 4G Solutions of India but the report was returned for reassessment when claims cropped up that the firm had been blacklisted in India. A team of eight officers of the technical committee travelled to India in May on a due diligence mission. The technical team reportedly said that 4G had been cleared of the performance queries.
Sources within the commission now say some commissioners are pushing for Face Tech to be given the tender due to its experience having conducted voter registration in South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Lesotho and Sri Lanka. Their argument is that even though 4G was the lowest bidder, it has no experience in voter registration, having only been involved in Identity Card registration in India.
Out of the the 28 firms that bid for the tender, only Face Tech (55m US$), Canadian firm Code (56mUS$), and OnTrack of Israel (99m pounds) had the experience of having registered voters. This is said to have informed the decision to consider Face Tech, which came second in financial evaluation and number one in technical evaluation. OnTrack emerged number one in financial evaluation. However in price quotation, 4G emerged the cheapest.
Procurement expert Dennis Omondi argues that the price of the bidder is not the automatic consideration when awarding a tender but the experience and financial stability of the firm also matter. "If number one or even number two are disqualified for any reason, the Act allows procurement entity to evaluate up to the time they get a contractor who best meets their objectives," Omondi says.
Omondi argues that the law provides for room in price negotiation before a contract is signed. However, Oswago said the law envisages the lowest bidder be awarded the contract. "You have to look at the law and see what it provides," Oswago said. He further argued that the tender and evaluation committees are bound by law to work within the budget and available funds for that specific procurement of goods or service.
Section 26 (3) of the Procurement and Public Disposal Act of 2005 states; "All Public Procurement shall be (a) within the approved budget of the procuring entity and shall be planned by the procuring entity concerned through an annual procurement plan." Oswago told the Star that "IEBC wrote to Treasury and sought Sh3.4 billion which we were provided with as it was within our annual plan and therefore I don't think the tender committee will work outside this amount. I will defend my officers with my life if their report is within the law".
The current stalemate is threatening to derail the process ad return the country back to the manual registers that the Johann Krieglar Report condemned for being responsible for the 2007 general election debacle. The IEBC has announced that it will begin a new voter registration exercise next month, and it is not clear which system will be used. Some 19 million eligible voters will be targeted. Yesterday, Oswago said he has not received the tender committee's resignation letter, and the process will not be affected by the move. "I want to assure Kenyans that come 3rd or 4th of December, the county will have a new voters register using BVR."
In 2010, Code Inc of Canada was awarded the tender for a pilot project in eight constituencies across the country and although Code was among the 28 initial firms and tendered for 55m US$ (Sh4.6b), it was knocked out by the technical committee.