A script that plays itself every time we near the elections, and which has become the electoral agency’s Achilles heel, is once again threatening the preparations for next year’s General Election.
Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman Wafula Chebukati is concerned that any further delay in procuring the key strategic election materials – the Kenya Integrated Elections Management System (Kiems) and the ballot paper printing tender – is worrying going by the 2017 election precedent.
It could see the commission resort to direct procurement which was highly contested in the last election, almost threatening the polls schedule that is cast on stone.
The Public Procurement Administration and Review Board (PPARB) in September annulled an international tender for the supply, delivery, and maintenance of the Kiems for next year’s election.
Ballot paper printing tender to a Greek firm Inform-Lykos also hangs in abeyance until a petition filed by a losing bidder, Africa Infrastructure Development Company, is heard and determined.
It is lamentable that procurement of key materials has been a big challenge, yet the IEBC has an electoral cycle of five years to prepare for elections.
The electoral agency has in the past single-sourced most key election materials due to time limitations. For instance, Smith & Ouzman, Al Ghurair, and OT Morpho (Idemia) were all single-sourced, often at the last minute, thus giving no room to carry out sufficient checks on the beneficiary firms.
Although the country has been at the edge of a precipice every time we hold elections since 2007, there has been a consistent lack of political goodwill to reform and restore public confidence in the integrity and legitimacy of the electoral body.
The Supreme Court judgment that rejected the 2017 presidential election results set a very high standard and its precedent should worry IEBC about how to prepare for the next polls.
One of the most important developments in the judgment that may put IEBC in the spotlight once again is the role of deployment of technology in the elections, which failed in 2013 and 2017.
The last election was the first to be held under an elaborate regime of electoral laws, including amendments to the Elections Act that introduced Kiems.
This was a new device intended to be used in the biometric voter registration, and, on the election day, for voter identification and the transmission of election results from polling stations simultaneously to the Constituency Tallying Centre and the National Tallying Centre.
Due to lack of proper preparation out of haste procurement, this technique did not work on election day and came to haunt IEBC during the hearing of the petition, challenging the victory of President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2017.
By the time the presidential election results were announced, all Forms 34A, generated at the polling stations, had not been submitted electronically to the national tallying centre as required by Section 39 (1C) of the Elections Act.
Three days after the declaration of results, Ezra Chiloba, the then Chief Executive Officer of IEBC, admitted he could not supply the petitioners with all Forms 34A.
IEBC must avoid minefields and take measures required to deliver credible, free and fair elections that are central to safeguarding the sanctity of our democracy.
The writer is a Public Policy Analyst —raphojuma@hotmail. com