Oswago: Junior officials to blame for tender errors

Former Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission CEO James Oswago in the dock on October 13, 2020.

Photo credit: Joseph Wangui | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The tender was awarded to South African firm Face Technologies Ltd.
  • Mr Oswago backed his defence by quoting the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act, which states that a worker  involved in tendering has the obligation of ensuring the law is followed.

Procurement officers at the poll agency should be held responsible for not complying with the law when awarding the tender for the supply of biometric voter registration kits that failed during the 2013 General Election.

According to former Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chief executive James Oswago, members of the procurement and tender committees were responsible for the award of the Sh1.4 billion tender.

The tender was awarded to South African firm Face Technologies Ltd.

Mr Oswago told the Anti-Corruption Court in Nairobi that though it was his duty to form the tender committee and appoint members, he had no authority to direct them how to do their work.

Mr Oswago added that he used to form the committees in consultation with the procurement manager.

He told court that the committees answered to the IEBC procurement unit, and not him.

Deliberate agenda

“After establishing a committee, it becomes independent. Members generate and deliberate agenda. The minutes are never sent to the CEO,” Mr Oswago said.

He added that it is wrong to blame him when a committee fails to perform its duties effectively.

Mr Oswago backed his defence by quoting the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act, which states that a worker  involved in tendering has the obligation of ensuring the law is followed.

“IEBC had more than 1,000 employees, including 33 managers and nine directors. It is inconceivable that a CEO should be blamed for failures of a tender committee. The appointees should bear individual responsibility,” Mr Oswago said.

“The procurement unit was to ensure every tender committee did its work. The coordination of the committees’ roles was done by the user departments.”

30,000 devices

The former commission chief executive also denied signing an amended contract for the supply of voting materials.

The December 12, 2012 contract altered the number of kits from 30,000 to 34,600.

Mr Oswago said the contract document he signed indicated that IEBC ordered 30,000 devices.

Also altered in the contract was specification of items. The changes were done without approval of IEBC, according to the prosecution.

The prosecution also said Mr Oswago had the responsibility of ensuring compliance with the Public Procurement and Disposal Act.

Mr Oswago said the decision to increase the number of kits was made by the poll agency commissioners during a plenary board meeting on January 26, 2013.

jwangui@ke.nationmedia.com