Leasing BVR kits and election materials the easiest way forward for IEBC
By Maurice N. Amutabi
The 2.5 billion shillings that has been allocated by the Government to secure electronic voting kits for IEBC has turned out to be the main attraction for brokers and suppliers more than the actual job the equipment needs to perform. IEBC officials appear to be under siege, from left, right and centre. It has become patently clear that interests, tender brokers, power barons, economic Mafiosi, activists, court battles and political rivalry will not allow IEBC to run credible elections unless it acts fast and swiftly, outside of these groups. IEBC has to do something different from what we have seen during every election cycle when equipment is secured late due to jostling for tenders by the country’s financial Mafiosi.
By now I am sure IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati and his team are aware that time has run out on them on the tender issues. Tendering for new equipment is now almost out of the question if timelines and schedules are to be followed by IEBC and if elections are to be conducted on August 8 2017. The court battles have just started and brokers have their antennas raised up and will rush to court as soon they learn that their person has been left out of the IEBC lucrative tenders. The only possibility for IEBC is to engage in bilateral negotiations with countries which have just conducted elections using digital and electronic system and lease their equipment for six months, and return it after elections. Only in this way will IEBC lock out the brokers who are salivating for tenders.
The problem of IEBC has been compounded by the request by Jubilee and other parties to assist it conduct their primaries. IEBC lacks capacity to conduct primaries for parties. IEBC is struggling to put things in order for the general election and can only conduct elections for parties by outsourcing the task to election consultancies and experts. A December 2016 status report on Kenya’s 2017 elections by the Centre for Democracy, Research and Development (CEDRED) identified three possibilities for IEBC if it has to succeed in conducting successful elections in 2017.
The first possibility was probable if IEBC secured election equipment by January 2017 to allow for adequate training and mastering of the equipment, as well as movement to constituencies for testing. The second scenario was to lease equipment by February from a country where elections were conducted electronically and train IEBC officials on how to handle during election, giving enough time for mock runs and reruns and testing data backup. The third alternative was that if by March no equipment had been sourced, IEBC should lease equipment and some technical staff from a another country where electronic equipment has been used and through a bi-partisan proposal present it to Parliamentary Committee on elections for approval. This would avoid the wrangles over tenders. Where we are now, five months before elections, it is this third scenario that obtains now for IEBC.
There are five countries (Canada, India, South Africa, Ghana and Israel) which have secure and tested BVR kids and election materials that can be leased by the IEBC for six months to ensure that it conducts credible and transparent elections. The five countries are friendly and would be willing to give the equipment under negotiated plans in order for IEBC to conduct successful elections in Kenya on August 8, 2017. CEDRED has established that if it borrowed from India, Kenya will need equipment from only one state in India such as Punjab and will need just three weeks to move the equipment from Mumbai to Mombasa and another one week to distribute to all constituencies. It will need about 47 technicians from India, one in each county to ensure training of staff and provide direction and avoid equipment tampering.
CEDRED established that equipment from Punjab alone would be enough because it has 23,000 BVR kits and Kenya needs about 19,000, plus backup or spare equipment in case of replacements. Kenya would therefore require maximum of 20,000 kits. When the rates are clear like this, it worries brokers and bribe takers. The problem to them is that there will be no bribery or kickbacks for this arrangement because the rate of hiring BVR equipment from India is known, because they are often hired out to institutions such as universities and cooperatives to conduct elections. Kenya will hire them under the same terms.
Kenya will need about 20 containers to ship equipment to Mombasa, with each container taking about 1,000 kits. To ship a container from Mumbai to Mombasa will cost about US$1,000 (about 100,000 shillings) each. This will translate to about 2 million shillings. There will be no duty or clearance fee charged at the port because this will be government to government arrangement.
India has rates for personnel per day, when travelling abroad so it will be very hard for official to inflate the figures as is often the case. Each BVR kit and supporting balloting equipment is hired for 50 rupees per day (about 100 shillings). This would translate to 100 shillings X 6 months (6X30 days) = 18,000. Since Kenya needs about 20,000 gadgets, this will be 18,000 X 20,000 = 360,000,000. This amount falls far below the 2.5 billion allocated for equipment by the government.
The technical team from India will be paid their international rate of allowances which is US50 (5000 Kenya shillings) per day. This would translate to 5000 shillings X 47 officials X 180 days) = 42,300,000. The total expenditure on this will be 402,300,000. The other major expense will be transportation of the equipment from the port to the polling stations. One may need about 47 vehicles, one for each county, hired at 200,000 each, because they will move between constituency offices. For a County like Nairobi this may be done in one day, but for counties like Marsabit, Turkana, Tana River and Mandera, it may require few days to reach each constituency. This will cost only 9,400,000. The IEBC can use NYS trucks or private transport.
Some countries such as Turkey ad Botswana have leased election equipment from India before and it may be our best bet at this time. Leasing equipment from Canada may cost slightly higher compared to India. South Africa, Ghana and Israel will also be slightly higher than India. Ghana and Israel have slightly small populations and may not have adequate number of kits for the entire electrical process in the country and may meaning additional kits from a second country.
Many Kenyans are hoping that the IEBC chair Mr. Wafula Chebukati will demonstrate that he can act outside interests and lease equipment instead of being manipulated by tender interests. If he goes ahead and leases equipment, he would have succeeded in taking the political and economic Mafiosi from IEBC headquarters, forever. Many Kenyans will support an open, transparent and fair election process regardless of where the equipment comes from.
Prof. Amutabi is the Vice Chancellor of Lukenya University, Kenya and Professor of History and Fulbright Scholar, Amutabi@gmail.com