What you need to know:
- The French company last week got a reprieve after the High Court quashed a recommendation by the National Assembly to suspend the firm's operations in Kenya for a period of 10 years.
- The IEBC contract with Idemia, which was reinstated following the High Court ruling, expires next year, and Mr Chebukati wants Treasury to allocate funds to procure software from the French firm to maintain the use of the elections kits.
The IEBC says it plans to use election materials procured from Idemia, formerly OT-Morpho, in the 2022 elections, setting the stage for a clash with the opposition, which had blamed the French firm for its loss in 2017.
The French company last week got a reprieve after the High Court quashed a recommendation by the National Assembly to suspend the firm's operations in Kenya for a period of 10 years.
Justice John Mativo, in his ruling, also quashed the recommendation by the House over a report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) for the cancellation of all contracts Idemia had with the IEBC.
In an interview with the Nation, Chairman Wafula Chebukati said the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission was still planning to reuse the materials supplied by the French firm.
“The commission uses these technologies, albeit with challenges, in voter registration and conducting by-elections and intends to re-use them during the next general elections should the situation allow,” Mr Chebukati said.
The IEBC contract with Idemia, which was reinstated following the High Court ruling, expires next year, and Mr Chebukati wants Treasury to allocate funds to procure software from the French firm to maintain the use of the elections kits.
“The commission is keen to reduce the cost of future elections by reusing its election materials including elections technology,” Mr Chebukati said.
OT-Morpho, as Idemia was then known when it won the contract, first won the Sh4 billion IEBC tender to supply 45,000 Kenya Integrated Election Management System (Kiems) kits used in the 2017 General Election.
They further got another Sh2.5 billion contract to supply kits used in the October 26, 2017 repeat presidential election.
Kiems contains the biometric voter registration, candidate registration, voter identification and the all-important results transmission system. Currently, Mr Chebukati said, the commission owns the hardware, but still needs regular software updates from the French firm.
If not done, he said, the country risks having to re-buy similar materials in the 2022 elections.
“The back end and the front end to these systems can still be reused in future if they are properly maintained to the required standards,” Mr Chebukati said.
“The commission has not been allocated a budget for maintenance of these technologies since 2017 and therefore the country is likely to incur higher elections costs in future due to lack of preventive maintenance and obsolescence.”
After the 2017 polls, the agency chairman said that the IEBC intended to upgrade the Kiems kits to include voter registration — which is already included in the kits, “but the voter registration software was not procured.”
This would mean more money, piling up the debt the commission owes. Currently, IEBC owes suppliers Sh3.9 billion.
“No additional budget has been allocated to settle these bills as directed by the President and, therefore, the commission’s operations as well as preparations for general elections are likely to be undermined,” Mr Chebukati said.
The fresh bid to push for the re-use of the Idemia software is likely to raise another storm with the opposition, which had blamed the firm for the problems in results transmission which formed a key plank in their Supreme Court petition that saw the nullification of President Uhuru Kenyatta's results in 2017.
Homa Bay town MP Peter Kaluma, who had moved the amendments that saw the inclusion of the recommendation to ban the French firm from operating in Kenya for 10 years, said the contract stands cancelled.
“The contract that the firm had with IEBC remains vitiated by illegality and, therefore, is unenforceable,” Mr Kaluma said.
In the interview, Mr Chebukati was keen to state that the contract only involved software and regular maintenance, but the hardware now belonged to the IEBC. By law, the IEBC is required to put in place technology necessary for election 120 days, or four months, to the general election.
This means that the IEBC is in for a tussle with MPs and Treasury to fund the upgrade of the software in its bid to maintain the use of the Kiems kits in the 2022 polls.
Kenya's election was entered in history as one of the most expensive in the world — at a staggering Sh2,400 per each of the country's 19,611,423 people registered to vote in 2017.
Ghana, in comparison, conducted its 2016 polls at Sh1,200 for each of her 15.7 million registered voters, while Rwanda in August 2017 conducted one of the cheapest — with less than one dollar for each of the 6.8 million voters.
At Sh47.6 billion and with only 19.6 million voters, Kenya spent almost Sh24 billion more than Tanzania, which has 23,254,485 registered voters. This, Mr Chebukati argues, has to change, and the first port of call is the re-use of election materials.
Kenya's inability to settle on one system has been hurting its purse.
In 2013, for example, the commission splashed Sh4.6 billion on 15,000 Biometric Voter Registration Kits and Sh1.7 billion on 34,000 Electronic Voter Identification Devices (EVID). It also bought a Results Transmission System at Sh638 million, in addition to mobile phones, modems, sim cards, projections, and other materials.
And while the BVR system was used in voter registration in 2017, the commission discarded the EVIDs, the RTS and the use of BVR on Election Day, choosing a new technology — the Idemia-provided Kiems kits to identify voters and transmit results.
Additional reporting by Samwel Owino