4 August 2012

Kenya: Cabinet Asks Iebc to Revert to BVR Kits

THE Cabinet has urged the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission to go back to Biometric Voter Registration only a day after the commission decided to revert to manual registration. Chaired by President Kibaki, the Cabinet "resolved to support the biometric voter registration system as a policy guideline to help build public confidence in the electoral system ahead of the general elections."

Under the law, IEBC is an independent institution and may not be directed by the Cabinet except through general policy guidelines which emanate from the government. "The Cabinet advised the IEBC to pursue the matter of the biometric system that will give more credibility and contribute to ensuring a free, fair and transparent election," a dispatch from the Presidential Press Service said.

The commission cancelled the tender for the supply of 9750 BVR kits on Wednesday following immense public outcry on the manner the tender had been awarded. In announcing the cancellation, the commission said the two lowest bidders did not meet the due diligence requirements while the other two firms who met the due diligence including Symphony Limited, were above budget. The company, which was second-placed in the tender bid, said it had fallen victim of "unknown intrigues." The company's managing director Rajender Sachdeva said the company bid for the tender purely on merit and with "unbeatable solution."

Sachdeva, who demonstrated the model BVR kits his company had procured as part of the tendering process, said the company's offer did not want to compromise on quality of the materials, as much as it had the opportunity. "On the laptops for instance, we opted for Lenovo Thinkpads which can withstand rugged conditions and which have world reputation in terms of quality and delivery. We had the opportunity to choose a cheaper but compromising brand but we didn't," he said at the company headquarters.

Speaking on the intrigues behind the loss of the tender, Sachdeva said two other "Symphony" companies were registered by unknown people in the course of the tendering process probably to muddy the waters for the original Symphony. He said his company registration file had mysteriously disappeared from the Registrar of Companies offices and his lawyers had been unable to trace it. The files for the other two Symphony companies were also missing, he said. "We had put a lot of hope into this and we had done a lot of groundwork. We came purely on merit and as a Kenyan company of 33 years of operation, we meant to give this our best," he said and denied that the company had any political connections.

The Indian firm 4G Identity Solutions which had bid the lowest said it would respect the decision by the IEBC to cancel the tender. However, the firm appealed to the commission to rethink the cancellation since it would negatively impact them. The Public Procurement and Disposal Act 2005 allows the IEBC to terminate the process before it awards the contract. In such case, the bidders cannot seek court intervention. "I am disappointed and I don't know what to do with the pre-ordered supplies from various companies all over the world," the chairman and CEO of 4G Identity Solutions Dr Sreeni Tripuraneni said.

Saying he would respect the decision, Tripuraneni said his firm would have been ready to supply the first batch of 2,000 kits within 12 to 14 days of being awarded the tender. IEBC had tendered for 9750 BVR kits before cancelling it and opting for manual registration. The IEBC chairman Isaack Hassan told a joint session of the parliamentary legal affairs committee and the Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee that the commission had been under intense external pressure over the tender.

He said the commission will now have to hire 50,000 registration clerks for the manual exercise which will start soon after the September 17 by-elections in Ndhiwa, Kangema and Kajiado North constituencies. Apart from 4G and Symphony of Kenya, other companies shortlisted for the tender were Face Technologies of South Africa and Ontrack Innovations of Israel.

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