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IEBC board says it was in the dark over shady deals

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Economy

Poll clerks during the August 2017 General Elections
Poll clerks during the August 2017 General Elections. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission awarded lucrative tenders without following the law to “some shady companies” with over Sh9 billion unaccounted for, according to the latest report by Auditor-General Edward Ouko.

IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati, who appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly Monday, was put to task over what commissioners did to save the country from losing money.

The IEBC Act mandates the commissioners to oversight the secretariat and ensure proper use of public resources and facilities but failure to perform their duties prompted PAC chairman Opiyo Wandayi to question their value.

“So this commission was just there … if nothing was brought to it, it did nothing. Did the commission know that something of the sort was happening?” Mr Wandayi posed, adding that the committee will write a special report on the commission aside from other government agencies.

“This is a clear case of abuse of the law by those involved at the commission,” he said. But Mr Chebukati said the commissioners were met with resistance from the secretariat headed by sacked CEO Ezra Chiloba.

“We were never briefed by the secretariat on the procurements and whenever we tried, we would be met with resistance. There was no matter that was brought to our attention that we didn’t attend to,” Mr Chebukati told the committee.

The questionable contracts awarded through direct tendering, contrary to the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act, and which Mr Ouko flagged include the Sh453 million awarded to IBM East Africa for the maintenance of servers that hosted the biometric voter register.

The others were Sh273 million to Oracle Technology systems Kenya Limited for supply and provision of database and security solution, which was awarded in a record three days.

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There is also the Sh28 million paid to Telcom Kenya for the procurement of co-location services for data centre and disaster recovery.

Mr Chebukati said that he had nothing to do but order for an internal audit of the procurement of election materials.

“The sacking of CEO (Chiloba) is part of the results to clean the commission and we invite the other government agencies to come and help us.”

Three commissioners, who questioned Mr Chebukati’s decision to audit the procurement- Connie Nkatha (Vice chairperson), and members Margaret Mwachanya and Paul Kurgat resigned in huff accusing the chairman of unfairly targeting Mr Chiloba and that their continued stay at the commission was untenable.

“They resigned in protest because we were digging deeper into the matter and the decision to discipline the CEO,” he said after Mr Wandayi sought to find out why the commissioners resigned.

The internal audit report was shared with parliament and the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Noordin Haji. It is not different from what Mr Ouko presented to the National Assembly.

In some instances, the commission’s acting CEO Marjan Hussein Marjan accused the technical staff of giving Mr Chiloba wrong advice during the procurement process.

He nevertheless, admitted that it contributed to the loss of billions in the run up to the August 2018 general election saying that if he were in charge at the time, he would have done things differently.

“The technical people messed the CEO. They should have provided proper advice,” Mr Marjan told the committee.

The contract was awarded through direct tendering and to firms that had not been pre-qualified as required by the law.

“Why did you choose to go direct procurement? We are not going to take this lying down because this issue keeps on popping at the IEBC. The procurement people must know that there is a law in place!” Mr Tom Kajwang’, a committee member said.

But Mr Marjan said that it was only IBM that had the expertise to maintain the servers as the original manufacturers and that an evaluation committee recommended the award.

He did not provide any studies undertaken by the commission to inform its decision as demanded by Mr Kajwang’.

Meanwhile, the committee has ordered that the IEBC commissioners who resigned, former head of legal services at the commission Ms Praxedes Tororey, the management of Oracle limited, IBM East Africa limited and Telkom Kenya appear before it next week.

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