IEBC: KIEMS stickers are non-strategic election materials

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati.

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

The electoral agency has said the election kits stickers are non-strategic election materials hence no cause of an alarm after some were impounded at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) last week.

Wafula Chebukati-led Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in an advertisement published in the local dailies said the technology contracted firm Smartmatic is required to provide stickers to aid in labeling each of the KIEMS kits for the purpose of packaging and dispatch to all polling stations which is currently underway.

"It is important to note that the stickers are non-strategic election materials. The stickers were printed based on the details of the Gazette notice published on July 1, 2022. The information therein is available to the public and can be accessed on Commission's website. The stickers contain information on the polling station, polling station center, ward, constituency and county as well as a unique barcode, " said Mr Chebukati.

This comes just a day after Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) boss George Kinoti said the Venezuelans arrested at JKIA on Thursday were neither IEBC nor Smartmatic staff, but had been in the country at the invitation of a Kenyan named Abdullahi Abdi Mohamed, the chief executive officer of Nairobi-based technology startup Seamless Technologies.

Mr Jose Gregorio Carmago was arrested on Thursday afternoon with 17 rolls of election stickers while two others-Joel Gustavo Rodriguez arrived in the country on July 15 with nine rolls of the same type of stickers ans Salvador Javier Suarez came with eight rolls on the same day.

Mr Chebukati has however veered off the matter despite the DCI accusing him of insincerity and laxity but when ahead to assure Kenyans that the commission is committed to delivering a free, fair and credible election amid hard questions from Kenyans on how election related materials would be carried as personal luggage and the Smartmatic remaining mum regarding its purported three employees who were arrested.

"The commission has continuously facilitated presidential candidates and /or their agents to inspect the ongoing preparation of the KIEMS kits at the factory in Nairobi. The collaboration is still ongoing," he said.

IEBC chairman added: "The commission would like to reassure the nation that it remains committed to delivering a free, fair and credible 2022 General Election that meets the democratic aspirations of the people of Kenya."

The electoral agency has also defended its decision for settling on Smartmatic out of the five bidders it received last year saying that the company was "found to have achieved the highest technical and financial score and with its decision having been challenged at the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board (PPARB) and the courts, its decision was upheld."

"One of the conditions in the tender document was that the bidder should provide a detailed support and maintenance plan and attach documentary proof of ICT technical support staff with a local registered office in Kenya. Smartmatic complied with this condition by providing a local in the country, " said Mr Chebukati, perhaps in reference to Abdullahi Abdi Mohamed, the chief executive officer of Nairobi-based technology startup Seamless Technologies.

"Smartmatic has been a partner to various election commissions across the world such as in Belgium, Estonia, Los Angeles County in the US and Zambia amongst others. It has implemented technologies for election commissions in five continents being North America, South America, Africa, Europe and Asia, cumulatively recording and tabulating 6.5 billion votes," he added.

This comes even as concerns are being raised on why IEBC settled on Smartmatic without looking into its dark sides even as Mr Chebukati exude confidence that the tech company will succeed in its mandate.

"To ensure successful implementation of the project, the commission holds regular meetings with Smartmatic to review the project status and ensure delivery of milestones in line with the Elections Operations Plan (EOP). To date, the project's progress is on track," he said.

He also said Smartmatic is not providing all the KIEMS kits needed for this election noting that before the contract with the tech firm, the commission had 41,000 working kits.

"Before Smartmatic was contracted, the commission had an inventory of 45,000 KIEMS kits- out of which 41,000 were in good working condition. In accordance with the contract and as ordered by the commission, Smartmatic has supplied 14,100 additional KIEMS kits to the commission, bringing the total number of the kits that are in good working condition to 55,100," said Mr Chebukati.

The commission is currently loading KIEMS kits with electronic voter identification and results transmission system softwares, Sim cards of network operators as well as SD cards containing registered voters' biographic and biometric data for each polling station.

"The KIEMS kits are being deployed to 46,229 polling stations, down from the earlier number of 46,233 polling stations. This was after seven polling stations in Kimilili Constituency were merged into three. The commission has approved the changes for gazettement. It is important to note that there will be six backup KIEMS kits in each county assembly ward," said Mr Chebukati.