Kenyan Body Rules Out Canceling Controversial Vote-Ballot Tender

  • Electoral body has no time to reverse award of ballot contract
  • Opposition says Dubai-based firm printing ballots compromised

Kenya’s electoral body said it will proceed with the award of a disputed ballot-printing contract to a Dubai-based company because it doesn’t have enough time to arrange an alternative.

“It’s probably not the best decision, but it’s the right decision under the circumstances,” Roselyn Akombe, a commissioner at the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission, said by phone Wednesday from Nairobi, the capital. “We don’t have the luxury of time. We have a choice between having ballot papers or asking for a constitutional amendment to postpone elections.”

The IEBC last week re-awarded the 2.5 billion-shilling ($24 million) tender to Al Ghurair Printing & Publishing Ltd., even after Kenya’s High Court canceled a previous contract with the company in February and a procurement-review board last month criticized the tendering process. Kenyan opposition presidential candidate Raila Odinga on Tuesday warned that the award of the contract to Al Ghurair risks compromising elections scheduled for Aug. 8.

Kenya has faced questions about the credibility of its past two elections, with a dispute over the outcome of a presidential vote in December 2007 triggering two months of ethnic violence that left at least 1,100 people dead.

The Star, a Nairobi-based newspaper, reported on Wednesday that unidentified officials in Kenya’s ruling Jubilee Party promised to deliver the ballot-printing contract to Al Ghurair before the tender was announced.

President Meetings

The pledge was made after President Uhuru Kenyatta met representatives of the Al Ghurair family, including Al Ghurair Group Chief Executive Officer Majid Saif al Ghurair, in Dubai in February 2016, where they provided information about their printing business, the Nairobi-based newspaper reported. In October, Kenyatta introduced Majid Saif to Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission CEO Ezra Chiloba, the paper said.

Calls to Kenyatta’s spokesman, Manoah Esipisu, didn’t connect when Bloomberg sought comment. Government spokesman Eric Kiraithe didn’t answer calls to his mobile phone, nor did Abdul Kayum, an assistant manager of customer services at Al Ghurair Printing, who also didn’t immediately respond to questions sent by email.

A meeting between Kenyatta and Al Ghurair wouldn’t have influenced the IEBC’s decision because the company supplied ballot papers for Kenyan by-elections since 2014, Akombe said.

“As the IEBC, we didn’t get any instructions from anybody,” she said. “We are an independent body. We made an independent decision.”

Odinga, who is seeking to stop Kenyatta from securing a second term in the August vote, said the involvement of Al Ghurair “bodes ill” for the election.

“It casts a dark shadow, which could have been avoided, over the credibility of the August elections,” he said.

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