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Strange Things Afoot in Kenya Biometric Voter Registration Procurement

Following a flurry of activity that included overtures from U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, the idea of renting registration kits from Ghana, and an electoral commission reluctant or unable to pick a bid, Kenya seems to be heading toward biometric voter registration for the elections scheduled for March 2013.

In order to move the project forward, two adjustments to the ordinary electoral process have been made.

The law mandating that the electoral register be completed 90 days prior to an election will be changed to allow the electoral commission an extra 45 days to complete its work. (Nairobi Star via All Africa)

The Cabinet yesterday accepted a request by the IEBC to acquire the biometric voter registration kits through a government to government arrangement. The Elections Act will also be amended to allow for the voter register to close 45 days to the polling date of March 4,2013 instead of the stipulated 90 days. These are among the decisions that were made during a meeting held between President Kibaki and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to resolve the crisis surrounding the procurement of the BVR kits which would have seen Kenyans revert to the manual voter registration system.

The amendment in the Elections Act will give the IEBC time to complete voter registration and allow scrutiny of the same and still keep within the elections time table it had drawn up. “The Government agreed to initiate amendments with the Elections Act to reduce the period for closure of the register from 90 days to 45 days so as to allow more time for voter registration,” a statement issued after the meeting read.

The stated procurement process has been thrown out the window. (Capital FM via All Africa)

MPs want Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Eugene Wamalwa to explain the criteria used by the Cabinet to select a Canadian firm to supply Biometric Voter Registration kits ahead of next year’s general election.

Ikolomani MP Boni Khalwale said the move amounted to the government taking over the procurement of the BVR kits from the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission.

The commission cancelled the tender for the supply of 9,750 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 to “unknown intrigues.”

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.

Apart from 4G and Symphony of Kenya, other companies shortlisted for the tender were Face Technologies of South Africa and Ontrack Innovations of Israel.

For a summary chronology:

1. IEBC solicits proposals

2. IEBC narrows list to four providers

3. For whatever reason, IEBC can’t choose among them.

4. IEBC cancels the project foreclosing any recourse to the bidders who followed the IEBC’s instructions.

5. Hilary Clinton offers Kenya free biometric registration kits.

6. IEBC rejects the offer citing (unstated) political implications that would have arisen from such a donation, and a lack of time to complete the process.

7. IEBC makes a request of the Cabinet to acquire biometric registration kits through a government to government arrangement (Ghana, perhaps).

8. Laws will be changed to ensure that there’s enough time.

9. Vendors scratch heads.

10. Still, nobody is sure where the kits will come from.

That’s kind of a mess.

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