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IEBC theft ‘was beyond the imaginable’

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By KEN OPALA
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The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission went flat out to award contracts to certain firms, against all legal and regulatory challenges, to the loss of the taxpayer.

IEBC also bought some items at three times the market rate even as it paid for materials that were delivered long after the 2017 election had ended.

Besides Safran which enjoyed inexplicable privilege, IEBC — against myriad court cases and petitions to the procurement regulatory authority — went flat out to ensure Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing LLC, a Dubai-based company which the Opposition linked to the Jubilee candidate, printed and delivered ballot papers.

“Engagement of Al Ghurair was wrought with litigation and the commission position was manifest all through in the defence of the company. In fact, IEBC didn’t provide room for alternative. It was fixated on this company,” says an insider.

A South African company interested in the contract had its offer in dead water. Ren-Form CC, proposed to print and deliver presidential ballot papers in less than a fortnight, if contracted.

“For delivery to (Jomo Kenyatta International Airport) by not later than August 2, 2017 provided production starts by July 21,” Jean-Pierre du Sart, its sales director wrote back to IEBC on July 14, 2017.

The presidential papers for the General Election arrived on August 1, 2017. Implicitly, IEBC wasn’t time-strapped as it claimed to justify the contract award to Al Ghurair.

The offer followed a plenary resolution that an alternative international company be identified to procure the ballots in line with a court judgment that almost disrupted IEBC’s plan to award Al Ghurair. The Court annulled the contract on the basis that IEBC failed to conduct the statutory public participation.

Instructively, Ren Form CC isn’t a run-of-the-mill company; it has supplied ballots in 22 African countries, including Zambia on three occasions before losing out to Al Ghurair in the August 2016 elections.

Thus, it was plainly fallacious for the IEBC to claim that it was time-strapped and that alternative suppliers lacked the technical capability. As it turned out, IEBC reached out to Ren Form CC as a matter of procedure.

Notably, Al Ghurair printed an extra 1.2 million (instead of the 196,115 agreed at the Plenary) presidential ballots in controversial circumstances, a matter that further complicated the already strained relations between Chebukati and Chiloba.

On August 1, 2017 — just a week to election — Chebukati asked Chiloba to explain “who gave (him) authority to print excess of 1.2 million instead of 196,115 ballot papers (1 per cent of the total requisition).

The one percent was to cater for spoilt ballots and “adverse circumstances “as well as reduce the risk of mismanagement of ballot papers”.

In his response, Chiloba agreed that plenary had resolved that, indeed, one percent extra ballots were to be printed but the number was to be “rounded off to the nearest 50”. How IEBC resolved this isn’t known, for the matter appeared to have ended with Chiloba’s response.

However, according to the Auditor General, “verification undertaken in 35 sampled counties across the country there were falsification of records on issued ballot papers maintained at IEBC warehouse in Nairobi compared with actual receipts in the field resulting in a variance of 2,534,904 ballot papers which have not been accounted for”.

The Al Ghurair contract was signed just days after IEBC’s then head of procurement Lawy Aura was sent packing “with immediate effect” for declining to give a favourable opinion on the proposed award to Ghurair, according to sources.

At the end, the contract for printing of ballot papers went through open tender, restricted tender then direct procurement. Al Ghurair survived this bizarre process.

Apart from the controversy-strewn contracts for KIEMS and ballot papers, almost all other financial deals had a tint of fraud. The acquisition of data bundles can only pass for a spending binge.

IEBC acquired Sh127.6 million worth of data bundles (149,640GB or 149TB) from Safaricom, Telkom and Airtel. Yet when the Auditor General analysed Internet use on the SIM cards, only 605.3GB of bundles worth Sh515,269 had been used — a mere 0.4 per cent of the acquisition.

It’s incomprehensible that IEBC didn’t enter into a postpaid arrangement with the telcos. Either elements in the secretariat were out to make a fast kill or an extravagant IEBC failed to pre-quantify the amount of data required before issuing the contract. Consequently, Sh127.08 million went to waste or was misappropriated.

But more confounding is a case where IEBC cloned contracts — a situation that resulted in the loss of billions of shillings.

The work was replicated, given different titles and then awarded separately yet the goods and services involved could have been performed by a single supplier.

Perhaps IEBC would argue that it sought to spread risks. But in real sense, the Commission did this to benefit multiple vendors, some with close ties with Jubilee honchos.

Duplication was also to create confusion and thus abet electoral fraud. “A single supplier will take care of failures. There won’t be any fighting and confusion. The norm is to give it to one company,” said an IT vendor for key national ministries.

IBM was to provide IBM server infrastructure and KIEMS security monitoring solution. Africa Neurotech was to supply and implement IEBC primary and secondary data centre, Oracle Kenya was to provide the Oracle database and security solution while Telkom Kenya was to offer co-location services for data centre and disaster recovery site.

The IBM infrastructure contract awarded on July 17, 2017 and scheduled to run through to June 2018, was given out for Sh425 million yet the evaluation committee had recommended that it be procured at Sh75 million.

The contract involved supply and delivery of vulnerability and event management services, cyber security operations centre, web application and next general firewalls, anti-distributed denial of service solution, e-mail security and licences, network discovery and compliance solution, and one-year hardware warranty and technical support.

The contract for the provision of Oracle database and security solution, which also comprised the review and assessment of the election technology, was awarded to Oracle Technology Systems (Kenya) Ltd via direct procurement. It was controversial.

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First, Oracle itself reportedly drew the terms of reference (ToRs). Second, there was no contract between the Commission and this vendor. Instead, there were signed ordering documents. Third, the KPMG audit of the voter register had already identified the inherent security lapses in the IEBC technology and had suggested solutions.

Fourth, the Commission’s ICT department had requisitioned purchase of Oracle database solutions and licences at Sh80 million but it was awarded for Sh273 million.

Yet, despite the inflated cost, Oracle partially delivered — it conducted one training instead of six. Database Vault, Real Application Cluster (that enables sharing of resources in form of cloud architecture) and training were “not complete”, according to audits.

IEBC contracted Africa Neurotech Systems Ltd to supply, install, implement, and commission and support its primary and secondary data centre equipment. It was paid Sh249.3 million against contract budget of Sh130 million. But according to the Auditor General, the Commission “paid the vendor before testing and commissioning the equipment”. The data centre wasn’t ready at the time of August Election.

Neurotech Systems Ltd is owned by Dan Kinyua Njuguna. A multimillion-shilling company with a presence in five African countries, it is intriguingly classified by the Public Procurement Oversight Authority (PPOA) among “disadvantaged” SME companies — those earmarked for Affirmative Action.

Despite non-compliance, IEBC still engaged Neurotech — through direct procurement — to supply and deliver storage expansion for the converged infrastructure, at a cost of Sh165.7 million.

Sh165.7 million was paid against a user requisition of Sh124 million. The equipment was delivered on January 9, 2018 — well after the FPE. In the end, IEBC paid Neurotech Sh415 million for facilities never used during the two elections.

As regards Telkom, it wasn’t among those pre-qualified for the tender (co-location services for data centre and disaster recovery site). However, in unclear terms, IEBC’s evaluation committee recommended it be awarded the contract, which was inexplicably overvalued by Sh4.92 million.

Once it became apparent that these companies had defaulted on their contracts, IEBC and Safran went into panic mode. The French company wrote to the Commission to be allowed to use Japan’s Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT) cloud services. The Commissioner would later accept the offer, even without a contract between the two, in a letter dated July 28, 2017.

Notably, the country went into the election without a backup server. IEBC didn’t have any data recovery infrastructure. And this partly explains why it couldn’t respond to Nasa’s demand to access the server. Nonetheless, IT experts question why IEBC dealt with NTT through Safran Identity yet the Japanese company has local representation — Dimension Data (which operates in Kenya as Dimension Data Kenya, Internet Solutions Kenya and Plessey Kenya).

“The Commission needs to justify contracting process for cloud services while at the same time incurs Sh1,002,813,667.97 on similar services that were never utilised,” says the Auditor General.

Our investigations reveal that IEBC awarded contract for cloud services despite an advisory by the Communication Authority of Kenya against the use of private servers. The Authority, in response to the commission’s proposal to use a private cloud server to supplement its primary and secondary disaster recovery sites, warned that sensitive data couldn’t be placed in private hands.

Intriguingly, the cost for cloud services during FPE was Sh50.7 million more than during the General Elections.

On June 20, 2017, the then IT chief Chris Msando presented a paper on the transmission of results for the August elections in which he indicated that some polling stations were out of the 3G and 4G network coverage required for KEMS transmission of results. An analysis found 11,115 stations reportedly outside the network coverage.

To cover this, IEBC proposed 1,000 and 1500 satellite units (at cost of Sh550 million and Sh825 million respectively) to be used in results from outside the requisite network. The first batch of Airtel’s 1,000 Thuraya data modems and SIM cards were distributed to constituencies before the August 8 elections.

However, in the end, only 339 modems and SIM cards with 4GB were used. The rest, according to IEBC internal audit, were delivered on August 24, 2017, way after the polls — although the Auditor General says that they were in fact supplied much later on October 5, 2017.

Yet, despite this, IEBC still went ahead to give out another contract for 1,000 units for FPE and which were received in January 2018. The Commission appeared not interested in the devices it had procured for the August polls or the unused 600. At the end, owing to delay in delivery, IEBC “reactivated and reused” the devices, according to Auditor General.

That apart, a ballot box that cost Sh1,800 during the August election was later procured at Sh2,500 for the FPE. This was in spite of the similarity in specifications and same supplier. Thus IEBC lost Sh27.9 million (from purchase of 42,927 boxes) in inflated costing.

Mini Mix Agencies was on March 3, 2017 awarded the Sh19.5 million contract to supply and deliver 3,696,000 security seals at unit price of Sh5.30. However, it delivered just 2,001,600 units on July 22, 2017. The rest, 1,694,400 seals, were supplied on October 19, 2017 — more than 2 months after the election. Yet IEBC didn’t terminate the contract even after the supplier had stalled.

Instead, the commission rushed to contract Ramaas Supplies Ltd, through direct procurement, for 500,000 seals at Sh24.5 million (at Sh49 a unit) to mitigate the shortfall. Instructively, this company had failed at the preliminary evaluation stage during the tender process, having quoted Sh18.10 a unit.

High Court Judge Pauline Nyamweya last October ruled that the Sh350 million contract to provide “strategic communication and integrated media campaign services” was irregular. The Secretariat had deviated from plenary resolution and inexplicably hired Scanad.

All said, “election 2017 was a swindle,” according to a member of the now-defunct Interim Independent Electoral Commission. “The theft was beyond the imaginable.”



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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