Kenya: IEBC to Upgrade Kiems, the System That Botched 2017 Elections

The electoral agency is in the process of procuring a state-of-the-art management information system to run the 2022 General Election.

The new system's features show an attempt by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to right the wrongs that led to the nullification of the 2017 presidential election by the Supreme Court.

The commission has advertised a tender for the procurement of an elections management system that is expected to support voter registration, voter identification, results transmission, candidates' registration and virtually every aspect of the next poll, which is expected to be even more competitive.

Read: Chebukati defends Chiloba on procurement of Sh6bn kits

The IEBC currently uses the Kenya Integrated Elections Management System (Kiems), which was controversially acquired from Idemia, formerly OT-Morpho, for the 2017 elections.

Kiems was used alongside the biometric voter registration (BVR) system, which was acquired in 2012 for the 2013 General Election.

The IEBC estimates Kenya will have 53,000 polling stations, up from the 40,883 in the 2017 poll.

In total, the commission says in its tender documents it needs 55,000 tablets for the 2022 poll to cater for the approximately 53,000 polling stations as well as provide back-up as and when needed.

"The backend system should be able to process at least 53,000 concurrent sessions. The system should have the ability to remotely configure, update, monitor, disable and wipe the RTS application software or settings on the tablet. The systems shall be able to display the transmitted results from approximately 53,000 polling stations," the IEBC said in tender documents yesterday.

Public pressure

The decision to advertise the tender indicates the agency has bowed to public pressure and ended its highly criticised dalliance with the French firm.

While the contract between the French firm and IEBC is supposed to end this year, the commission has been pushing to have the firm's contract renewed ahead of the 2022 General Election.

Idemia was in 2016 controversially awarded a five-year contract to maintain Kiems kits, which host the voters' roll, at a cost of Sh6.8 billion in a deal that haunts the commission to this day.

The kits did not just fail on the election day, but the commissioners thereafter resisted attempts to have the manner in which the kits were procured revealed to the public.

Read: IEBC says Chiloba procured Sh6bn kit tender alone

At one point, the commission refused to have minutes showing how the technology was procured and read out publicly during proceedings of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly.

It took a tough stance on the part of the lawmakers for chairman Wafula Chebukati to surrender the minutes, which revealed commissioners were split during a Special Plenary Meeting on March 31, 2017 to decide on procurement of the kits.

The commissioners had differed sharply on the decision to directly procure the kits as outlined in the minutes tabled before the PAC.

A section of the commission and the secretariat at that time led by CEO Ezra Chiloba pushed for direct procurement.

Other commissioners opposed direct procurement and blamed Chiloba for single-handedly sanctioning the procurement of the kits.

Acting CEO Marjan Hussein appeared before the committee and shifted the blame to Chiloba.

The minutes indicated Mr Chebukati, as well as former commissioners Consolata Nkatha, Roselyn Akombe and Margaret Mwachanya, approved the purchase of the kits.

Commissioners Abdi Guliye, Paul Kurgat and Boya Molu opposed the purchase of the kits, questioning whether indeed there was value for money.

External actors

Idemia received a notification of award on March 25, 2017 and signed the Kiems contract with the IEBC on March 31, 2017.

In its report, the committee observed there were attempts by external actors - vendors and politicians - to influence the procurement of the kits.

"The evidence found in the minutes shows a commission that was indecisive or under immense influence and did not know what to do. The committee's view is that discord on critical procurements in the commission is systemic because of external influence. Parliament must find a way of taming such in future through legislation," the committee recommended.

In its advert, IEBC said it will retain its Candidates Registration Management Software, which it intends to have integrated with the BVR software and the results transmission software for seamless data exchange across the platforms.

In view of the Supreme Court ruling that nullified the 2017 presidential election, and which indicted the IEBC's election transmission system, the IEBC wants the system to capture polling-station results at the constituency tallying centre, as well as tabulate and display the results as declared by the returning officers.

IEBC had been criticised for declaring presidential results before receiving all the results from Kenya's 40,883 polling stations, which the Supreme Court said was the primary result in the presidential polls.

The IEBC wants the system reconfigured so that an election official can only consider voting done after positive identification of the voter and a fingerprint touch.

The commission wants the system to disallow multiple registrations through capability to verify captured records at the central site.

"The system should be able to flag and allow for alphanumeric investigations on cases of similar registration-document details, shared ID/Passport numbers or sequential ID/Passport numbers from the same kit. A central site operator will be able to work on such cases and make a final decision," the IEBC says.

It also wants the system to have up-to-date records of voters, able to update new electoral maps and boundaries and constituent voter details, as well as an ability to generate voter register by polling station, ward, constituency, county and at the national level as and when required, and with specific details of transfers and electoral boundaries.

To avoid cases of crucial data disappearing or being tampered with, the IEBC wants the new system to provide online retention of daily system monitoring logs for at least 90 days, followed by permanent archival storage.

To guard against attempts to log into the system without authorisation, IEBC wants the proposed system to automatically disable a system ID when a maximum number of unsuccessful log-on attempts are reached.

In the tender document, the IEBC says it plans to reuse 46,500 Kiems tablets from the 2017 General Election.

New systems software

While the IEBC has acquired and now owns the tablets, it needs to procure hardware repair and maintenance services as well as new systems software.

The contract with Idemia for the supply of Kiems kits does not make it clear whether or not the French firm will be involved in the procurement or whether they will be required to provide software for the 2017 polls hardware.

The Kiems kits, the IEBC said, needed to be upgraded.

"The commission desires to put in place a new technology with a view to addressing the emerging issues and experiences of the 2017 General Election as well as put in place support and maintenance contracts in order to ensure serviceability, reliability and availability of the technology," the IEBC said.

The IBM server infrastructure, which hosts the BVR system, and which was acquired in 2012, had since reached the end of its life, the IEBC said yesterday.

"The IBM server infrastructure has been encountering breakdowns due to disk failures as a result of the ageing hardware. The BVR Automatic Fingerprint Identification Software (Afis) acquired in 2012 was provisioned with capacity to hold a maximum of 20 million voters and has since reached its maximum capacity.

The current register of voters contains approximately 19.7 million voters and the Afis system may not cope with additional voter registration until the capacity is expanded," the IEBC said in the tender documents.

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