In the case of BVR kits supply tender, IEBC was lethargic and tardy. While the process began on February 22, 2012, with the “invitation for bids”, IEBC had not awarded the tender by September 2012.
Interestingly, despite complains that IEBC was time-strapped and the process running behind schedule, it took the tender evaluation committee 43 three days to submit its report (technical and financial evaluation). The deadline for submission of bids closed on March 26, 2012 yet the evaluation committee submitted its report on May 7, 2012.
Based on the correspondence we have, it would appear the delay may have been deliberate – designed to favour two bidders, companies associated with top businessman and a TNA activist (now an MP, Central Kenya)
Even as the IEBC squabbled as to whom to award the tender, behind-the-scenes negotiations were taking place between the two bidders. A former electoral commissioner was the linkman between IEBC and the bidders.
It would appear an IEBC top official secretly passed on crucial information to one of the bidders. He passed on privileged information to the company. “I should say that I contacted (the top official) and offered a possible solution to the, can we say stalemate, and told him I thought (sic) a way out of the dilemma might be a cooperative effort and I thus mentioned in a frank and direct manner we would be open in working with another firm,” one of the bidders wrote in an email.
On July 2, 2012, IEBC decided to give the tender to Face Technologies of South Africa – well aware that the tender would go to Symphony. In hindsight, Face Technology was a smokescreen. Because some people had “eaten” Face Tech’s money, the whole process had been choreographed to placate the South Africans that they had won.
(Face Tech later got the tender to produce Poll Books. This was seen as reward for having missed out on BVR. However, there were concerns about its ability to deliver . Its implementation of similar contracts in a number of African countries had been questioned – in Sierra Leone, Lesotho, Namibia, Uganda, and Nigeria)
Somehow, an IEBC insider says there wasn’t enough push to have Face Tech take the contract. “They were merely interested in the money and later say, “we tried to give it to you but failed”.
CODE Inc was among the 29 companies that didn’t go through the initial evaluation. However, as will be seen later, it eventually clinched the tender through the “Government-to-Government” deal between Kenya and Canada.
From the outset, the BVR tendering was contentious. Political operatives, NSIS wedged themselves in the process in attempt to influence the outcome. Indeed, in a bid to discredit the potential ‘winner’, 4G Identity Solution, the NSIS (through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) in collusion with some elements within the Commission, wrote a note to IEBC suggesting that the company (4G Identity Solution) had been blacklisted back at home in India. This was despite the fact that a due diligence team that also comprised UN Development Programme (UNDP), had visited the company’s premises and given it a clean bill of health.
One of the IEBC commissioner is said to have single-handedly fought the Indian company.
The 4GI Solutions President claimed that his company failed to clinch the tender because it declined to fork out a Sh30 million bribe, demanded by some people in the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Oswago had written to Kenya’s High Commissioner in India, through Foreign Affairs, to carry out a due diligence on the firm.
On May 31, 2012, John L. Lanyasunya, the head of Asia and Australasia Directorate, Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote to Oswago, thus “the (Kenya High Commission) in New Delhi has conducted a due diligence … and has requested us to convey their strong advice that their findings indicate the above mentioned entity (4G Identity Solutions) should not be allowed to enter into any business transaction with any Government institution in Kenya. Kindly be advised accordingly.”
Interestingly, Kenya’s mission supposedly took just a day to undertake due diligence on this matter.
Lanyasunya wrote to Mr E. M. Barine, Kenya’s High Commission in India, on May 29, 2012 to check on: Existence of 4GI Solutions; nature of business it carries (out) and the experience it has within and without India; financial capability to execute the contract; its legal status, and; its litigation history.
“It would be highly appreciated if a comprehensive report on the above is submitted for onward transmission to the (IEBC) for further necessary action.”
The following day Mr Barine wrote back and claimed that the company had been suspended for failure to execute a BVR project in India.
“Given the gravity of the violation, despite the high priority the Government of India is giving (to the exercise) highly tied to the future security of the country against infiltration and continued terrorist threats, the lack of sensititivity by 4G identity Solutions to national security is in high breach of trust … the (Kenya High Commission) is of the strong view that Kenya should blacklist the company bearing in mind the challenges facing the country in particular, international terrorism that continues to stalk the country,” Barine wrote to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The company disputed the report. In a letter to Oswago dated July 23, 2012 Dr Sreeni Tripuraneni, the company’s chief executive, produced copies of reports indicating that it had not been blacklisted by the Indian authorities as claimed by Kenya’s High Commission in New Delhi. “We have a strong feeling that (the letter by Ministry of Foreign affairs) was written after we refused to compromise on corruption. We would like to bring to your attention that on various occasions, we received telephone calls from people in Kenya High Commission in India and Kenyan ministry of Foreign affairs, Nairobi telling us that we needed to pay money to enable them to write a positive letter to IEBC.
“Having failed to agree to the numerous requests, a certain (name withheld) who claims to work in the Indian High Commission in Nairobi approached our local partner demanding Sh30 million on behalf of officers in Kenyan Ministry of foreign affairs to enable them write a favourable letter to IEBC.”
The letter claimed that a Mr R.A Goenka (who claims to be Kenya’s consul in India) asked the company to contact (an MP from Nyanza whose name we have withheld) to “facilitate the transaction”.
Later, in an interview with the media, Thuita Mwangi, the Permanent secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, disputed the existence of a Mr Goenka as Kenya’s consul in India. However, the website for Kenya’s High Commission in India says of Goenka, thus “the Government of Kenya appointed Mr. R.A Goenka as its Honorary Consul on 28th October 2003. Mr. Goenka who was born in 15th July 1942 has over thirty years experience in both import and export business … Mr. Goenka has consular jurisdiction over the State of Maharashtra and will be useful to both Kenyan and Indian nationals in this state”.
Unknown to the public, the acquisition of the BVR kits wasn’t a bilateral deal between Kenya and Canada. Rather, the Kenyan Government borrowed money from Standard Chartered Bank to pay Morpho France for the kits. Canada merely played the minor role than it was stated.
“Canada provided Kenya with the names of two Canadian companies that it would be prepared to support in delivery of the project to Kenya.” Mr Bruce Grundison, Chargé d’affaires at the High Commission of Canada.
“Morpho Canada, working in conjunction with Morpho France, was approved by Canada as these companies had the technical ability to provide the kits within the short timeframe required. Canada is pleased to have been able to assist the Government of Kenya with this important initiative, which stands to contribute towards a credible, fair, transparent, and peaceful election.”
Canada had wanted CODE Inc to take up the contract but the company was wound up before the negotiations were finalized.
In the final analysis, Kenya ended up spending Sh8 billion for a project that should have cost Sh3.2 billion.