The rift over the Sh2.5billion ballot tender pitting Jubilee Party and Opposition Nasa took a sharp twist yesterday with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) ruling describing the printing deal a foregone conclusion.
IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati said the electoral body was well behind schedule and would not cancel the ballot printing contract awarded to a Dubai firm.
Earlier speaking in Kericho, President Uhuru Kenyatta accompanied by his deputy William Ruto maintained that the General Election will proceed as scheduled and told the opposition to forget any chances of using a shortcut to lead the country.
Kenyatta narrated the systematic attempts by the opposition to sabotage and create complications to delay the election to pave way for transitional government.
“Enough is enough. We will not accept their attempts to postpone elections. We know their game but we will not allow Kenyans to be denied their democratic right to choose the leaders they want on the date stipulated by the Constitution,” said the President.
And to throw light into the ballot printing saga, the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) denied claims that the State House meeting between President Uhuru with a Dubai Chamber delegation discussed the ballot papers tender.
KNCCI national chairman Kiprono Kittony confirmed in a dispatch to newsrooms that Majid Saif al Ghurair, indeed paid a courtesy call on the Head of State on October 5, 2016 after a business-to-business meeting between Kenya and Dubai’s Chambers, but that the visit had nothing to do with ballots printing tender.
But as the row raged, Jubilee made counter claims that National Super Alliance is fronting for a South Africa firm associated with its presidential candidate Raila Odinga.
Jubilee secretary general Raphael Tuju alleged Odinga wanted IEBC to award the tender to Paarl Media Company of South Africa. ”Odinga was between a tender battle for ballot papers printing and his party in the bid lost.The company is associated with a close allay of Raila and its officials have been in the country five times to meet Nasa principal,”said Tuju.
However, Nasa representatives lawyer Paul Mwangi, former Ombudsman Otiende Amolo, former CORD secretariat boss Norman Magaya and Hamida Kibwana dismissed Tuju’s claims and reiterated that the elections cannot proceed under the current ballot paper printing arrangement and demanded the cancellation of Al Ghurair Print and Publishing Company Limited of Dubai tender.
They were speaking at meeting called by the IEBC with presidential aspirants and their representatives to discuss implementation of the KPMG audit report on the voters register and the award of the ballot printing tender.
Speaking to the press after holding a meeting which included presidential candidates Ekuru Aukot (Thirdway Alliance) and Michael Wainaina (Independent),Chebukati maintained that the opposition have not furnished the commission with evidence to prove the Jubilee link to the firm awarded the tender.
Said Chebukati: “The commission wishes to assure the country of its commitment to have ballot papers delivered on time, adding that the commission is bound by the provisions of Article 249 of the Constitution which obligates it to protect the sovereignty of the people of Kenya.”
The electoral boss revealed that the contract between the commission and the Dubai-based firm Al Ghurair has already been signed and has no time to start a fresh procurement process. However, Chebukati pledged disciplinary action on any IEBC staff that should be in breach of tender award rules but demanded evidence and not just allegation that would facilitate such action. He said stakeholders have been briefed on a number of measures put in place to ensure ballot paper control on poll day.
“We shared with stakeholders the procurement process and why we chose the Dubai firm; measures being put in place for ballot paper control, reconciliation on the polling day and stakeholder participation in ballot printing and deployment monitoring,”added Chebukati.
However, Aukot claimed the credibility of the forthcoming election have been compromised and said “Kenyans are being prepared for what is likely to become in the fullness of time shambolic,disorganised and rigged elections.”
Independent candidate Joe Nyaga urged IEBC not to withhold any information that would help in the exercise but challenged Nasa to table any helpful information. He said the same should be done by Jubilee. Nyaga asked political leaders not trivialize the matter as it might trigger another crisis as witnessed after the 2007 elections which ignited violence.
All the aspirants turned down an offer by the commission to visit the printing firm plant in Dubai.
And in Parliament, Leader of Majority Aden Duale told a press conference that Raila was a business ally of owners of Paarl Media.
Duale claimed that Ben Sachs and Patel Shailesh, the proprietors of the firm were friends of Raila and had entered into a deal and in return would boost his campaign kitty.
He claimed that on diverse dates in December 2015, Raila met the two directors thrice in his office and twice in April of last year.
Duale talked of the recruitment of Hamida Kibwana, former UNDP representative in Tanzania who was deported following links with “Kitchen gate” architect Trevy Oyombra.
“Kibwana has taken a critical role in the Nasa campaigns and yesterday represented the coalition in the meeting with the electoral commission,” Duale said.
Duale said that after realising that the deal had flopped, Raila introduced Sachs to IEBC chief executive Ezra Chiloba to push the deal through but the latter refused prompting Paarl Media to challenge the tender process in court.
“Raila is therefore crying over a deal gone sour. He lost a campaign financier and must express his disgust,” Duale said.