Smartmatic defends Venezuelans found with stickers, mum on local partner

House of Innovation and Technology, Dennis Pritt Road,

The House of Innovation and Technology on Dennis Pritt Road, Nairobi which hosts Seamless Technologies.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

The firm contracted by the electoral agency to provide voter identification and results transmission technology Thursday came out to defend its reputation but declined to comment on its local partner, citing a non-disclosure agreement.

Smartmatic, the Greek company that won the tender to run the all-encompassing Kenya Integrated Elections Management Systems (Kiems), also insisted that three Venezuelans arrested at the airport with election kit stickers in their luggage were their full-time employees through a subsidiary company.

The company, however, dodged questions about its relationship with local firm Seamless Technology, which says it is its local agent, but which neither Smartmatic nor the elections agency claimed by name. “Per non-disclosure agreements signed, we don’t comment on our local partners,” Smartmatic said Thursday.

In a series of emails with the Nation since Sunday, Smartmatic dismissed accusations of tender irregularities and providing kits that are vulnerable to tampering.

‘Victim of fake news’

Insisting it was a victim of fake news, Smartmatic said its deployment of election technology in the United States, Venezuela, Zambia, Uganda and the Philippines was above board.

“All these election boards from these countries, and many other countries, have retained Smartmatic for many election cycles, and that speaks volumes about the quality of our work. It’s a sign we are trusted and a sign of a job well done,” Smartmatic told the Nation in an email response signed off by Ms Samira Saba, the firm’s communications director.

“Unfortunately, election processes, in general, are vulnerable to disinformation. Bad actors systematically disseminate lies to undermine elections by inciting fear, anxiety and distrust among voters and stakeholders.

Voter figures manipulated

Specifically, on Venezuela, where the firm acknowledged that the turnout voter figures were manipulated by at least a million, Smartmatic said the disclosure was a demonstration of its honesty.

“Those elections (Venezuela) were monitored by institutions like the Organization of American States and the European Union. After the 2017 elections, Smartmatic CEO publicly announced that the turnout rate stated by Venezuela’s Election Commission on Election Night (July 30, 2017) did not match the automated tally report. That was the last electoral event in Venezuela to which Smartmatic provided services,” said Smartmatic.

In the Philippines, where the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Centre concluded that Smartmatic “is compromised” after the 2016 polls, the firm cited the continued use of its technology in other elections as confirmation of its good work.

“Just last week, a well-known pollster in the Philippines announced the results of a survey they conducted after the most recent elections: a remarkable 90 per cent of Filipinos want authorities to continue using their automated election system for the country’s future elections; and 83 per cent of voters trust election results,” the firm said.

Uganda voter kits failed

In Uganda, where biometric voter kits failed, forcing election officials to revert to the manual system, Smartmatic denies the allegations in total.

“In both 2016 and 2021 elections in Uganda, Smartmatic has provided technology to authenticate voters. The Electoral Commission was quite satisfied with the performance of the system. Any report of massive failures is simply not true.”

On the election technology, Smartmatic says it was fully prepared to identify voters and transmit results. “Regarding the devices, poll workers will count votes and fill the forms manually. Then, they will take a picture of the form and transmit the images to the public site. The devices won’t tally, but transmit the images to the public site. It is important to tell you this is a process requested by the IEBC,” Smartmatic said in a response to the Nation.

It added: “The most important role the tablets will play on Election Day will be in the authentication of voters.”

While the firm denied to divulge details about Seamless Technologies, which protested the arrest of the three Venezuelans, it said: “The people identified are, in fact, full-time Smartmatic employees through one of its subsidiaries.”