No ballot papers yet as electoral commission sacks official

What you need to know:

  • In its ruling, the board fingered Mr Aura for what it suggests is a deliberate bungling of the process.
  • Mr Muhati was accused of not co-operating in the ongoing audit of the 19.74 million names in the voters register being carried out by global audit firm KPMG.

With exactly 61 days to the General Election, the electoral agency is in the grip of a crisis over the procurement of ballot papers to be used on August 8.

This follows Monday’s sacking of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s (IEBC) procurement director Lawy Aura after a damning ruling by the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board (PPARB) that accused his office of flouting the law in the award of a Sh2.5 billion tender for 130 million ballot papers and declaration forms.

Mr Aura, who had been seconded to the IEBC by the Treasury, and whom sources said would return to the Treasury, was at the centre of the award of the lucrative tender that had been given to Dubai-based firm, Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing Company, in October, before being cancelled in February by the High Court.

While the IEBC blamed “incompetence” for the sacking, it is the explosive 92-page procurement board ruling that insiders cited as the main reason, and what could hint at the mountain facing the electoral agency.


The board, led by lawyer Paul Gicheru, ruled that the IEBC lied in its sworn affidavit that, for the second tender, it had invited nine firms that lost the first, and four that bid for restricted tendering, a claim the board said was untrue, as the other four were, in fact, from among the nine that had lost.

The nine were Al Ghurair, DPS Print Supplies, Manipal Technologies, Tall Security, Paarl Media, KL Hitech Secure Print, Ellams Product Limited, Baltijas Banknote, and United Printing, with representatives of Ellams, Paarl, KL Hitech, and Baljitas making enquiries on the restricted tender.

The board also found in the minutes of tender opening that DPS Print was missing and Lantrade Global, Uprint, Novus Holding and Digiprint GI Solutions had been added.

Insiders on Tuesday told of a stormy meeting and arguments among commissioners after the ruling about what they described as a “big letdown by Mr Aura”.


IEBC commissioner Roselyne Akombe separately told the Nation that Mr Aura’s sacking was a necessary course of action.

“The ruling by the board was damning: That we have been questioned to have flouted not only the law, but the Constitution...?” Commissioner Akombe remarked.

On the risk of the action affecting the IEBC timelines, Dr Akombe said: “No, it won’t.”

“Institutions are beyond people and we should proceed without a problem. A directorate is beyond one person.”

In its ruling, the board fingered Mr Aura for what it suggests is a deliberate bungling of the process.


“The defects and the several contradictions in the tender document also leave a considerable amount of doubt in the board’s mind as to whether the head of the procuring department or the IEBC staff charged with the procurement function ever read and carefully considered the contents of the tender document before the same was released to the selected bidders and eventually to the public when it was uploaded on the IEBC’s website on April 28,” the board said in the ruling the Nation has seen.

Ballot papers are arguably an election’s most important component, after the electronic voter identification and results transmission — which were single sourced to French firm Safran Morpho to supply the Sh3.8 billion Kenya Integrated Election Management System (Kiems).

At least 25,000 of the 45,000 Kiems kits are already in Kenya, with 11,000 of them in use in the ongoing audit of voter register, and the extra ones expected way ahead of schedule, unlike in the 2013 polls when they arrived barely a week to the elections.


On Tuesday, Mr Chebukati accused Mr Aura of incompetence.

“The commission on May 29, 2017 relieved the procurement director, Mr Lawy Aura, of his duties, necessitated by incompetence that has made operations untenable as we fast approach the General Election,” Mr Chebukati said in the statement on the commission’s website, after announcing his fate on Twitter.

The firing of Mr Aura comes after the axing of another senior official from the helm of a key department in the agency — ICT Director James Muhati, who was sent on a 30-day compulsory leave on May 26.

Mr Muhati was accused of not co-operating in the ongoing audit of the 19.74 million names in the voters register being carried out by global audit firm KPMG.

The IEBC had set a May 28 deadline to award the ballot papers tender, and July 22 for their arrival, to give time for sorting and distribution across the country to be completed at least 24 hours before the polls open on August 8. There are 15,082 aspirants for six elective seats.


“The procuring entity cannot afford to make a third false start in the procurement process for the materials. The board, therefore, urges to focus on conducting a proper procurement process by whatever method it may elect to use after taking into account the limited time left between now and August 8, and all other relevant considerations,” said the board.

The IEBC had on October 18, last year awarded Dubai-based firm, Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing Company the Sh2.5 billion tender, only for it to be cancelled in February after the Cord coalition challenged the tender award. The Dubai firm lodged an appeal, which was quashed in April.

On March 18, the procurement board asked IEBC to ignore the High Court’s ruling, saying it was the only body that could order re-tendering.