IEBC Invites NASA For Urgent Crisis Talks Over Tender
The IEBC has invited NASA for an urgent meeting this morning to discuss the Sh2.5 billion ballot papers printing tender, as the opposition last night was considering court action to block the contract.
Sources close to the opposition chiefs told the Star NASA's legal team was exploring options because they believe the IEBC will dismiss their demand to cancel the tender awarded to Dubai-based Al Ghurair Printing & Publishing. It says the tender is part of a Jubilee rigging plot.
Jubilee yesterday dismissed accusations it influenced the tender award. DP Ruto said Jubilee would win the August 8 election even if the tender were awarded to Raila Odinga's family company, Spectre International Ltd.
Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Aden Duale said NASA leader Raila has sensed defeat, hence, efforts to scuttle the tender, with just 53 days to go.
IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati invited the five NASA principals through a letter to alliance CEO Norman Magaya to a 10am meeting at the commission.
"We are considering several options including court action," NASA co-convenor James Orengo said.
On Tuesday, the Star exclusively reported President Uhuru Kenyatta had met Al Ghurair bosses, first in Dubai and later at State House, Nairobi.
But yesterday at rallies in Busia and Amagoro, Uhuru and Ruto accused the opposition of spreading anti-IEBC propaganda against IEBC. They said NASA was looking for excuses.
“To my brother, Raila Odinga, please, start selling your agenda to Kenyans. Leave IEBC to do its work. The IEBC has no votes, it's Kenyans who have the votes,” Kenyatta said.
He said the opposition has had plenty of time to prepare for the poll and should not attempt sabotage.
Ruto said Jubilee doesn't care which company was given the tender.
“We want the IEBC to award the tender to any company, including Spectre International owned by Raila Odinga’s family. Jubilee will still emerge victorious,” Ruto said.
In Nairobi, opposition leaders Musalia Mudavadi, Moses Wetang'ula and Charity Ngilu told a media conference they had evidence Jubilee influenced award of the tender.
NASA demanded the sacking of electoral agency CEO Ezra Chiloba and commission director for Election Operations and Voter Registration Immaculate Kasait "for facilitating Jubilee's interests".
Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula said he and NASA presidential candidate Raila had met IEBC chief Wafula Chebukati to explain the Jubilee link.
NASA said the IEBC voter registration boss reports weekly to State House and gives a status update to Chief of Staff Joseph Kinyua.
Musalia accused Kasait of hiring about 20 temporary employees, all from one community, now deployed to work on the voter's register.
“It is clear these two senior IEBC officers, Ezra Chiloba and Mrs Kasait, are currently the single most serious threat to a free and fair election. They should immediately step aside and investigations should be commenced into their conduct and tenure at the IEBC,” a NASA statement said.
Contacted, Kasait said she had not heard of the NASA claims and promised to revert. She had not responded by press time.
Chiloba rejected reports that he was involved in striking deal to award the tender.
“Firs, you should ask yourself whether I was in State House during that meeting (with the Al Ghurair boss) before asking whether I was given any instructions by anyone. That is what we call political gossip and there is nothing like that,” Chiloba said.
The CEO did say the firm has been printing ballot papers for the electoral agency for by-elections since 2014.
“More than 20 by-elections have been held and printing has always been done by Al Ghurair and no one has ever raised an issue. It is only coming to the fore at this particular point because of the General Election,” Chiloba said.
On June 22, the commission will ferry stakeholders to the firm in Dubai to monitor production of ballot papers, in a bid to enhance transparency and address NASA's concerns over rigging.
“this will be the best way to address those concerns because there is no other way other than sending a delegation. This is part of our continued efforts to build confidence in the wider electoral process,” Chebukati said.
presidential candidates, civil society, the inter-religious council and Kenya Bureau of Standards will each send one representative. The media will have three slots in the monitoring delegation.
“They will be required to witness and confirm in writing, the completion of several key production points,” Chebukati said.
He continued, “As an additional security and confidence-building measure, the monitoring delegation will witness the destruction of test-run prints during calibration and the handover of the pallets to the cargo agent by Al Ghurair.”
Today the IEBC is to meet all presidential candidates or their representatives on the issue of ballot papers and the entire preparation process.
Chebukati said Al Ghurair has a suitable emergency production, packaging and delivery plan, plus experienced and qualified personnel.
“There are four direct flights daily by two major airlines to Kenya making shipping easier. The firm has experience in African countries, part of Asia, the Middle East among others,” he said.
Duale defended the commission, saying Raila knows he will lose. "That's why he cries wolf. Let him prepare for his fourth loss. Let IEBC do what it needs to do to prepare a fair election. Chipping away at it is a cheap shot."
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