The new system will be used to verify the identity of voters and transmit results from polling stations after the original specifications were amended to remove the voter registration component.
COST OF ELECTIONS
When IEBC published the open tender in December 2016, it was aware that the new system would not be used for the final mass voter registration in January and February.
Despite this knowledge, the commission went ahead to include the voter registration requirement in the technical specifications of the open tender, only to remove it from the tender document used to directly procure from Safran.
By removing the voter registration component from Kiems, the commission effectively tied the new system to a single event, the 2017 election!
Because it has remained silent on the fate of the nearly 30,000 Electronic Voter Identification (Evid) kits bought in 2012 at the cost of $16 million (about Sh1.6 billion), there is no reason to believe that Kiems will be any different after the 2017 elections.
The tendency to rush to acquire new technologies tied to single electoral cycles is unsustainable as it disproportionately increases the cost of elections and illustrates the commission’s short-termism.
It is also a painful reminder that IEBC has failed or refused to learn any lessons from the controversial procurement of Evids in 2012.
The biometric voter registration component generally tends to be the most expensive of any electoral technologies because it requires specialised back-end equipment with massive computing power.
Kiems without the voter registration component should, everything being constant, cost a lot less than the available budget.
This is, however, not the case because IEBC has stated that Safran will deliver the system at a cost of Sh3.8 billion.
It is upon the IEBC to convince the public that Safran did not capitalise on its knowledge of IEBC’s budget.
Finally, the BVR system supplied by Morpho Technology in 2012 was required to be built on open standards to facilitate data interchange with other system.
The requirement is a common industry practice to minimise the risk of a customer being locked to a single vendor for the provision of critical goods or services.
For this reason, compatibility with the existing BVR system could not have been used to exclude other potential suppliers from being considered for single sourcing.
In choosing Safran, however, IEBC increased its exposure to the risk of being tied to the vendor for the foreseeable future.
The author is an independent elections and technology expert and former director ICT at IEBC.