By SAM ALFAN
The complex voter registration and identification equipment used during the March 4 General Election were never tested before use, a trial court heard today.
Director of ICT at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, Dismas Ong’ondi, said he blew the whistle on the probability of acquiring faulty equipment before it was tested. He had demanded to know when the kits would be tested and the scope of the investigation.
Mr Ong’ondi said the success of the project depended on the date by which Face Technologies which won the tender would deliver fully-configured devices to each polling station.
He said he received memo dated January 3 2012 from the Deputy Secretary in charge of support services saying that the joint technical team between IEBC and Face Technologies had proposed a factory test. He said that on January 7, last year the deputy secretary appointed two ICT officers Stephen Ngeno and Stephen Ikileng for the factory test that was to be conducted in China.
“I was never consulted about the appointment of the two and to the best of my knowledge the visit to China for factory test was never conducted.” Mr Ong’ondi said.
He was testifying in the case in which IEBC CEO James Oswago, deputy commission secretary, support services Wilson Kiprotich Shollei, director of finance and procurement Edward Kenga Karisa and procurement manager Willy Gachanga Kamanga are accused of failure to comply with procurement laws contrary to the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act 2003 and abuse of office. They have all denied the charges in which the commission allegedly lost over Sh1.3 billion.
Mr Ong’ondi told Senior Principal Magistrate Doreen Mulekyo that he warned the commission that it was carrying out too many critical activities that made the realization of the Electronic Voter Identification Devices (EVIDs) project risky.
He added that, after Face Technologies embarked on the project he raised alarm that the model by the company differed from what they were supposed to supply. He told the commission that the February 9, 2013 deadline proposed by the South-African based company was not enough for testing and configuration of the BVR kits.
“We also desired a device that could sustain network capability for future use,” he said. He recommended to the commission to terminate the tender before any contract was signed.
Mr Ong’ondi, the first prosecution witness, had earlier told court that IEBC conducted a pilot project on the use of that the kits that covered 18 out of 210 constituencies in 2010.
He said the commission held an open day in October 2011 in which prospective suppliers were invited. “This survey was to enable IEBC to identify available technology so as to find the most appropriate for the commission’s needs. We visited a number of election bodies across the world to try and learn the type of technology and experience they were using in their own elections,” he said.
He said after the tender was advertised prospective bidders purchased the document by the end of the deadline on May 10, 2012. However the deadline was extended at the request of the bidders to allow them sufficient time to submit their bids.
The IEBC continued to receive requests from bidders for clarification and additional information which, according to the witness, compelled the commission to cancel the tender notice on May 17, 2012.
When asked by State Counsel Mungai Warui whether there was any adjustment to the original tender he said the adjustments were meant to address some of the clarifications that bidders had sought.
He said the commission held a pre-bidding conference on June 14 2012 at Nairobi Safari Club and 15 IEBC officials attended. In addition he said 21 prospective bidders attended the conference and later Face Technologies won the tender for the supply of BVR kits.
He warned the commission risked running out of time if the bids were not evaluated on time.
“These devices were not off-the-shelf commodities that could be obtained in large quantities on a short notice. The evaluation required a lot of time to examine the bid and qualifications,” He said.
He said the successful bidder would take three to four months to supply the devices.