The Electoral Commission has come out to explain why the National Voters Register has been taken out of the country as the 2021 elections draw closer.
Stephen Tashobya, one of the EC Commissioners confirmed yesterday that the Register was indeed taken out of the country “for cleaning.”
“Yes it was (taken out of the country). A new company came in to supply the Biometric Voter Verification Machines and we didn’t have the capacity of servers to download the Register. That capacity was out of the country and the company took the Register for downloading in order to clean the Register and provide it in time. So, yes, it was taken out of the country,” said Tashobya on Thursday on NBS.
The cleaning he said, involves among others removing dead people from the registrar.
Meanwhile, Tashobya confirmed that the contract to print ballot papers has been awarded.
He however, sidestepped the question of why local companies were denied chance compete for the tender, as ordered by the PPDA.
“Before the printing is done, a tender is issued out, and those that win the tender are awarded, whether they are within or outside. But what I can say is that the tender has been awarded. They (PPDA) raised issues and we have answered those issues and the process is ongoing,” he said.
It should be noted that PPDA had cancelled the process of printing ballot papers on grounds that the Electoral Commission did not consider local companies while giving out the contract, something that is contrary to the PPDA Act.
On October 29, 2020, the Electoral Commission Chairman Justice Simon Byabakama insisted on procuring foreign firms to print ballot papers for the 2021 general elections.
He said the Commission felt that where possible, local companies should participate in printing of ballot papers but noted that it was not a mere sentimental process.
“It is a question of capacity. Our technical team realized that there were shortcomings in the technical competences of our local printers, particularly in the area of ballot printing,” Byabakama told reporters.
“Given the high numbers and the high valuables and the time element in this situation (COVID-19), we said let the printing tender be awarded to foreign entities. We are handling a very delicate process and we can’t afford to have any delayed delivery or printing of ballot papers. Any delay pushes the Commission into a possibility of noncompliance with the grid requirement of Article 61(2) where elections must be held within a specified timeline under the Article,” he said.
“So taking into account all these factors, the Commission felt that our local companies may not handle the work within the required time. However, PPDA ruled otherwise, saying there were issues. But we are having further engagements with PPDA to resolve this immediately because we can’t afford to delay anymore,” he added.
PPDA had directed the Electoral Commission to re – evaluate bids for local companies, Picfare Industries Limited, Graphics Systems Limited, Inline Print Services and New Vision Hi-Tech JV which were side-lined in the 185 billion shillings tender award that was given to foreign firms.
The Electoral Commission had awarded tenders to foreign firms that included; Tall Security Printers (UK), Uniprint (South Africa), United Printing and Publishing (Abu Dhabi, UAE), Adare Sec Limited (UK) and Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing Company (Dubai).