Kenya court cancels printing tender as election date nears

File photo / IEBC

The Kenyan national elections that are scheduled to be held next month hang in the balance after a court cancelled a tender that was awarded to a Dubai-based company to print ballot papers. The court cited lack of public participation in the tender decision and directed the country’s electoral commission to start the process afresh.

The prospects for Kenya holding elections in August 8th look grimmer after President Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto said their party will not be involved in any talks with the electoral commission over the award of the presidential ballot paper printing tender as directed by the court.

The court ordered the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to start the process afresh and come up with a framework for ensuring public participation. On Monday, the electoral body met representatives of the eight presidential candidates but the parties failed to agree on what needs to be done to unlock the impasse.

Meanwhile, the poll agency has moved to the appellate court to contest the judgment which nullified presidential ballot papers printed under the tender awarded to Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing LLC. It is also seeking an order stopping implementation of the judgment until its appeal is heard and determined.

The order to suspend the tender awarded to Al Ghurair was delivered by three High Court judges Joel Ngugi, George Odunga, and John Mativo. They ruled that the commission had failed to engage in public participation while awarding the tender as required by law. They faulted the IEBC for failing to consult all candidates in the August poll before awarding the Sh2.5-billion tender to Al Ghurair.

The case had been filed by the opposition the National Super Alliance (NASA) citing conflict of interest and favouritism for Al Ghurair. However, the court found that there was no conflict of interest in the manner in which the tender was awarded.

In its appeal, the polls body is questioning, among other things, whether the contract that was awarded to Al Ghurair can be partially nullified. In the ruling made on Friday, the judges said that the company could continue printing ballot papers for parliamentary representatives and forward representatives, only stopping printing of papers for the presidential elections.

The ruling by the court has led to an attack on the judiciary, with the ruling party claiming bias by one of the judges, saying that he is related to one of the litigants. President Kenyatta has also criticized the Chief Justice, who had earlier asked the electoral body to stop printing ballot papers for the presidential elections until the case is heard and determined. The President said the orders issued by the court and the statement by the Chief Justice appear designed to scuttle the election, a situation that he said was unacceptable.

With less than 30 days to the general election, IEBC will have to race against time to deliver ballots for the high-stakes election in which Odinga and Kenyatta are facing each other for the second time. Kenyatta is seeking a second and final term while Odinga is seeking to become the president after failing to do so in the last three elections.


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