The Star (Nairobi)

9 August 2012

Kenya: Canadian NGO Winds Up BVR Kits Company

The Government says plans are at an advanced stage to procure the Biometric Voter Registration kits through a concession worth 4.6 billion shillings ... ( Resource: Kenya: Voter Kits Procurement Nears Completion

THE Canadian IT firm tipped to supply the Biometric Voter Registration kits to IEBC through a government-to-government deal that was wound up last month.

The assets of Code Inc, an affiliate of a Canadian registered charity Canadian Organization for Development through Education, were immediately taken up by Electoral Services International Inc.

Code Inc was voluntarily wound up on July 12, 2012 in a "non-conventional liquidation" undertaken by Ernst & Young. The new owner of ESI are Dwight Casson who was previously the chairman of the Code Inc and who has confirmed the latter's liquidation. Yesterday Ikolomani MP Bonny Khalwale sought a ministerial statement from Justice and Constitutional minister Eugene Wamalwa.

Khalwale wanted to know if the government intended to acquire the biometric voter registration kits from Code Inc and how it had reached that decision. "I also want to know if the decision to undertake government-to-government procurement is as a result of pressure from US Sectretary General Hillary Clinton," said Kwalwale.

Yesterday, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman Isaack Hassan and the CEO James Oswago both confirmed they were aware that Code Inc. had been liquidated last month. They both declined to response to further questions. The suggestion that the Government acquire the kits from Canada was made during the meeting between the IEBC and President Kibaki to try and resolve the impasse caused by the cancellation of the controversial tender bid. Finance minister Njeru Githae is reported to have made the proposal.

During her meeting with the IEBC, Clinton had offered her government's support to procure the purchases from Canada and the have her government donate them to the IEBC. Her offer was however rejected by the IEBC which said it would have a political impact as the IEBC was supposed to be independent.

Yesterday, Casson said he bought the assets of Code Inc. as a going concern on July 12. The firm was an affiliate of Code, a charity whose aim is to enhance education in developing countries and which was started in 1959. The firm has since its inception in the late 1980s been donating its profits to the charity's foundation which then invests the money. The charity's main funders are the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) Partnership Branch, who provides 75% of the program needs while the rest is from the public.

Casson who was formerly the executive chairman of Code Inc until June 20 this year, said the charity appointed a liquidator to wind up the company. "This was not a conventional liquidation in that there were/are several million dollars of cash in the business. CODE just did not want to own the business any longer." He described as 'outrageous' that the firm he now owns has any links to his country's security intelligence agencies.

He said under the liquidation terms, he could continue using the name Code Inc but would have to surrender it at the end of six months. His new company -ESI- now has ownership of the BVR software used in the pilot project conducted by the IEBC during the 2010 referendum in 18 constituencies, namely- Kamukunji, Langata, Mvita, Malindi, Dujis, Wajir East, Isiolo South, Imenti Central, Mbooni, Nyeri Town, Kikuyu, Eldoret North, Nakuru Town, Ainamoi, Ikolomani, Webuye, Kisumu Town West and Bonchari.

Also inherited by ESI was Code Inc's vice president in charge of marketing and business development Gordon Sinclair and a Alex Gysel whom Casson said had spearheaded the BVR registration in 2010. "They are very well known and respected in Kenya for the success in 2010."

However this is the same Sinclair whom leaked email exchanges shows interfered in the controversial BVR tendering process on behalf of Code Inc. The email exchanges between him and Rajender Sachdeva, the MD of Symphony which was the firm favorite to get the tender, indicates how there interference happened.

The emails were done in anticipation that Symphony would be given the tender after Code Inc's offer was rejected for submitting a defective bankers' bid bond. Code Inc indicated its intention to cooperate with Symphony and provide the kits if the latter was awarded the tender. The emails also implicate a former IEBC commissioner whom Sinclair described as a local representative of the company. The man was a member of the then IIEC when Code Inc. undertook the pilot BVR.

In the email exchanges, Sinclair seems desperate and promises Symphony that "there is very little we cannot provide towards the successful implementation of the this project." Sinclair claims the company has "close relationship with the head of the commission which is one based on mutual respect."

He talks of the "impeccable relations" with MPs and "many areas" of the government and describes itself as the "obvious choice" for the implementation of the BVR. The emails go on to say that the involvement of Code Inc in the supply of the kits would attract the "least amount of public resistance for public scrutiny."

Sinclair boasted of "profound understanding, experience, history and inside knowledge of the finance department of the IEBC." He says he can safely say the chairman would back them up on the tender." In one of the response dated June 8,2012, Rajender rejects Sinclair's offer saying it could only get involved if there was a compelling customer-centric reason.

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