A fresh controversy has emerged at Kenya’s Election Body, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) following the award of a tender to a Dubai based company to print ballot papers for next year’s elections.
On October 18, IEBC wrote to Al Ghurair printing firm, notifying it that its bid for the supply and delivery of 130 million ballot papers, election declaration forms and poll registers had been accepted.
But the decision has been challenged by a losing bidder who has lodged an appeal at the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board citing irregularities and blowing the lid off one of the most sensitive tenders in the electoral process.
This comes as the process of replacing the IEBC chairman and commissioners enters a crucial stage. The 2013 elections were marred by allegations of procurement irregularities and failure of electronic equipment, denting the commission’s image.
According to the contract terms, the Dubai company is to supply and deliver the ballot papers within 21 days after the window for political parties to nominate their candidates for various elective positions closes on May 8, next year – three months to the August 8 General Election.
This means the company must deliver the ballot papers by May 28, next year.
The Dubai printer was the only one out of the nine bidders who went past the technical evaluation stage and was thus picked automatically.
The other eight firms that placed their bids for the lucrative tender are Ellams Products Ltd (Kenya), Manipal Technologies (India), Paarl Media (South Africa), Kl-hitech (India), Eabaltijas (Lativia), Digital Printing Supply (Italy), Tall Security Printing (UK) and United Printing and Publishing (UK).
It is the South African company that has now lodged an appeal alleging procurement irregularities.
The appeal by Paarl Media, a division of South Africa’s Novus Holdings Ltd, is dated November 7. The company wants the review board to set aside the award and reassess the entire process which culminated in the award of the tender.
IEBC Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba defended the commission’s decision to award the tender, saying it strictly followed provisions of the public procurement laws.
“We followed the Public Procurement and Disposal Act (PPAD) provisions right from tender notice, evaluation to the award of the same. It is the legitimate right of any bidder to challenge the outcome of a procurement process they may feel not satisfied with,” he said in a statement.
He added: “The commission advertised a tender for supply of ballot papers on an ‘as and when required’ basis, what is known in law as a framework contract. Under such an arrangement, the supply of goods is based on either indeterminate quantities, time or both.” Chiloba said framework contracts have been useful, especially in regard to the procurement of ballot papers for by-elections because they are unpredictable and subsequent timelines are constrained.
“Under such circumstances entities easily go for single sourcing or direct procurement. From experience, that is not an option we would consider. The previous framework contract the commission operated lasted two years and lapsed in June this year,” the statement further read.
He added that the commission did not wish to comment further on the procurement issue “because it has been contested and the matter is now before the Public Procurement Review Board”.
The CEO, however, noted that the commission had filed its responses to the claim and was confident it would prevail.
Ben Sachs, the Business Development Manager for Novus Holding who spoke on behalf of the aggrieved South African company, said their decision to challenge the award was intended to stop “open fraud”.
“This is a very curious situation. We have appealed and we are expecting hearing to commence on Wednesday (November 23) at 2.30 pm”.
After the 2012 elections, a look into the the ballot paper tender process revealed that IEBC commissioners asked for “chicken” (Bribe) from a local agent of the UK printing firm, Smith & Ouzman to influence the award of tenders.
A London court found two directors of the company guilty of corruption related offences. But investigations in Kenya are yet to be concluded.
Source: Daily Nation