‘It wasn’t me’, Chiloba defends self over flawed KIEMS kits tender

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Former IEBC chief executive officer Ezra Chiloba has denied individual responsibility in the flawed procurement of KIEMS kits for last year’s elections.

Chiloba said the decision to award a direct contract to French firm Safran Identity & Security was unanimously reached by all commissioners.

While appearing before the Public Accounts Committee, the sacked executive said his former colleagues at the electoral agency apportioned blame to him despite having attended all meetings on procurement between February and March 2017.

“Unlike what my former colleagues told you here, it was a corporate decision, fully engaged from February all the way to March,” Chiloba told the Opiyo Wandayi-led committee.

“The fact that we disagreed at some point does not mean that it was not a commission position. From where I sit Mr Chair, it was a very legal decision,” Chiloba said.

The ex-IEBC chief executive was sacked on October 12 by Chairman Wafula Chebukati over procurement malpractices ahead of the August and October 2017 elections.

The sacking followed two suspensions in what Chebukati said was to allow for an internal audit over the irregularities over the tendering of the Kenya Integrated Elections Management Systems kits.

He said the former commissioners, including the chairman, lied before the commission that they were not party to the decision because of fear.

Chiloba said it was unfair that Chebukati blamed him for the procurement of the kits yet he was part of the decision that approved the termination of an open tender.

The commission had initially awarded the tender to another French firm named Gemalto SA but it was revoked by the court.

Read: IEBC settles for Safran for poll equipment, says deadlines must be met

While announcing the cancellation on March 27, 2017, Chebukati said the decision to award a direct procurement was arrived at owing to operational and legal timelines.

He said it would be impossible to initiate a fresh bidding process taking into account the tendering procedures, manufacture, delivery, installation and commissioning of the kits.

“Since we are working against legal and operational timelines, the commission has resolved to directly engage Safran, which has undertaken to deliver the technology within the statutory timelines,” Chebukati said at the time.

He said Safran was the best option left in the prevailing circumstances since the only other bidder who had been evaluated quoted Sh5.2 billion against the available budget of Sh3.8 billion for the kits.

He said working with Safran would be cheaper since the commission already had a three year contract on the maintenance of BVR system after the voter registration exercise.

Records of the plenary meeting tabled before a parliamentary committee indicate that Chebukati voted alongside commissioners Consolata Nkatha, Roselyne Akombe and Margaret Mwachanya to approve the deal.

Commissioners Boya Molu, Paul Kurgat and Abdi Guliye opposed the idea which was being pushed by the secretariat.

On Thursday, Chiloba alleged that some of the commissioners attempted to influence the awarding of the tender to a different supplier known as Smartmatic.

“I have full recollection. I have just mentioned Smartmatic but there were other companies.”

Read: IEBC commissioners differed on polls kits tender, records show

“There were even sometimes which I found quite unfair where a meeting was held with a vendor – all commissioners present in the boardroom – and the CEO as the accounting officer has not been invited,” Chiloba said.

The summoning of Chiloba by the PAC emanates from questions raised by the Auditor General Edward Ouko over the 2016/17 financial expenditure at the electoral agency.

IEBC spent Sh4.19 billion for the 45,000 KIEMS kits used on the August 8 polls and another Sh2.5 billion for the October 26 repeat presidential election.

In submissions before the PAC on Wednesday, chief executive Hussein Marjan said the IEBC lost Sh21.8 million four days to the August 8 election last year in the purchase of security seals for extra ballot boxes after the supplier failed to provide them.

The commission had awarded the Sh19.6 million security seals tender to M/S Far East Ltd to supply 3,696,000 seals at Sh5.30 each.

However, by July 22 – less than a month to the election – the contractor had only supplied 2,001,600 forcing the commission to directly spend Sh24.5 million to buy 500,000 pieces off the shelf at Sh49 per piece, 10 times the initial unit price.

Marijan said it was the only option available after the first contractor failed.

Read: Electoral agency lost Sh21m in buying security seals, MPs told

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By Kenyan Digest

The Kenyan Digest Team