By: JOHN NJAGI
Grand Coalition principals pressured the electoral commission to go ahead with a tender for voter registration kits despite being advised they would fail, MPs heard on Thursday.
Former Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chief Executive James Oswago told a parliamentary team how the commission was summoned to Harambee House by then President Mwai Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and the Cabinet and told to go ahead with the tender.
The commission had advised against acquiring the 15,000 biometric voter registration kits due to limited time to roll out, test them and train officers on their use.
“We were informed we had to procure the kits, with the government offering to do a government-to-government deal with the Canadians,” he said.
Mr Oswago was replying to queries by the National Assembly Public Accounts Committee, chaired by Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo, on procurement irregularities that contributed to the kits’ failure in the 2013 elections.
He said the government-to-government deal was imposed on the commission by then Finance Principal Secretary Joseph Kinyua on behalf of the Cabinet and the principals.
“He (Kinyua) told us to adopt the deal but to make it appear as if it was the commission undertaking the tender,” he said.
Mr Oswago said the decision to keep the public and media in the dark that the deal was being made at a time the two principals had been advised it was bound to fail, was taken at the Harambee House meeting, also attended by IEBC chairman Issack Hassan and the nine commissioners.
Admitting that the commission ceded its independence to the two principals regarding the equipment, he said any officer in a similar situation would have “done the same”.
“I must admit we were awed by the presence of the principals and we could not have gone against their decision despite knowing it would not work,” he said.
He however, said he should not be blamed for the failure of the kits.
When asked by Suba MP John Mbadi where the blame lay, he pointed a finger at Mr Hassan.
The government intervened to procure the voter registration kits after the commission failed to award the tender in a competitive process as the deadline for the elections loomed.
Mr Oswago, who has since been sacked over corruption allegations and replaced by Mr Ezra Chiloba, also told the MPs that the commission was shocked to learn that the government would pay for the kits, saying all along the Canadians had given the impression they were donating the equipment.
He also revealed how the Canadian Commercial Corporation was paid Sh100 million to lobby for international financing on behalf of the government to buy the BVR kits.