DeepCogitation has the fortitude of appealing to an increasing number of well wishers who are providing insight to a number of national issues. In this regard we have received the following anonymous tip from a concerned and patriotic citizen.
The story following below outlines a possible explosive issue brewing over the printing of ballot papers. IEBC has only just recently squeezed through a near disaster with the fiasco of acquiring BVR kits. The acquisition of BVR kits was riddled with controversies from the tendering all the way through to award with many firms lodging protests as well as pointing accusing fingers at unclear and sometimes fraudulent practice. Finally with government intervention, the BVR kits were supplied and delivered albeit quite late, but also at nearly three times the initially quoted figures.
The efficacy of these units is yet to be tested in the 1st general elections and we can only hope that the IEBC has a plan B in place should these units fail.
But our attention is now drawn to a new story unraveling on the supply of ballot papers. The article below points to a flawed tender which has also been single sourced citing reasons such as time constraints. The problem however is that the company awarded this contract is said to be in financial trouble and struggling and it is feared that they will not be able to meet the tender on their own. As a result, they will be forced to sub contract to other companies. Due to their financial troubles, they cannot obtain relevant funding to print the ballots and are forced to sub contract to several companies. This introduces a huge security risk due to the numerous actors involved and could potentially compromise the elections as crooked people exploit the leaks.
Read the story below and judge for yourself
A serious crisis relating to gross abuse of public office looms large in one corner of the seemingly bewitched Coalition Government.
This time round it is about the printing of the 2013 election stationery. Apparently, a company whose books are in the red and which is completely incapable of executing an eighth of the work given the time remaining between now and the impending elections is at the center of this emerging controversy.
It is not known who is behind Smith & Ouzman, the company that has won the tender, but he or she appears to be very, very powerful as the contract has been awarded with no regard for proper procurement procedure and with full knowledge that S&O are incapable of carrying out the work.
It is being whispered that for questioning the single-sourced Smith & Ouzman, a well-known civil rights activist recently had some of his teeth forcibly removed by ‘unknown’ assailants. He had questioned the BVR kits issue and also that of the ballot papers. Since by the time he was assaulted, the BVR story was already a fait accompli, could the assault have been to shut him up about the even more crucial matter of ballot papers?
The justification for IEBC to use the S&O for single-sourcing is so full of holes, that one could drive a large truck through some of them. This is especially so because S&O are a small company with financial problems. The good thing with the UK is the fact that all audited accounts are readily purchasable from credit reference bureaus off the internet (thus the financial information we have provided is easily verifiable – http://www.companiesintheuk.co.uk/ ). The company has survived by subcontracting work to other struggling printers (who are desperate for any work) and acting as commission agents. The companies approached or subcontracted by Smith and Ouzman include T.A.L.L Security Printing and A1 Security Printing. Financial statements for the past few years are easily obtainable and are appended to this document.
Some of these companies have no experience in printing ballot papers and ironically, they are also incapable of handling the volume of work and are thus in turn also looking for people to subcontract the work to! This is in spite of page 10 of the contract signed between S&O and IEBC specifically forbidding transfer or assignment. Page 12/13 also forbids giving of information regarding the specifications of the ballot papers to third parties.
Most worrying about this about-to-happen disaster is the possibility of the printing of extra ballot papers for the 2013 elections which is the perfect recipe for a second and uglier round of post-election holocaust. This is because Smith & Ouzman is hawking the tender to various companies in the UK and Europe since it does not have capacity.
It is well known in procurement rules (including those of PPOA) that security items cannot be subcontracted as there is then no way that the person who subcontracts the work (in this case Smith & Ouzman) can be held accountable for any misdeeds.
Imagine a bank giving out a tender to print cheques then the person who wins the tender goes to look for people on river road to print them. Imagine then, that the river road printer is suffering from serious financial problems (as we will show, the two companies S&O are planning to contract have no previous experience in printing and packaging election ballots and also, are in dire financial straits). Any crook or fraudster can approach the printer and offer money for him to make some extra cheques to be used for fraud purposes!
In the same way, anyone with some money can compromise the subcontracted ballot printer to print an extra run or two of ballot papers. They don’t even have to be stuffed in the ballot boxes on election day. Say we hear that ballots marked to favour Raila were found in a classroom in Nyanza? Or Kibera? Or others marked in favour of Uhuru were found in Thika. Or Dagoretti? It would call into question the whole election resulting in chaos.
Smith & Ouzman:
According to their website, Smith & Ouzman has a long and established reputation developed over 65 years of supplying election printing services such as ballot papers and poll cards for local government elections throughout the UK and worldwide.
In reality, Smith & Ouzman is a relatively small and financially unstable company that lacks capacity to do serious security printing jobs. They specialize at offering big cuts to election officials in countries in Africa in exchange for ballot paper contracts. As they don’t have the printing capacity to complete these jobs, they outsource to other printers who are not proper security printers.
All the years of accounts for Smith & Ouzman that are attached indicate losses other than the year ending 2011. The only reason Smith & Ouzman made a Profit & Increased their turnover in 2010-2011 was purely and simply the inflated contract from Uganda Electoral Commission to print Presidential Ballots – circa 20 million only. (Please refer to their audited accounts)
Uganda Electoral Commission can confirm that even with such a small volume of ballot papers compared to the requirement in Kenya (Uganda 20 million – 1 type only vs. Kenya 120 million – split into many different types) Smith & Ouzman did not print the Uganda Ballot Papers themselves.
They have misrepresented their capacity to do printing work to many countries election bodies including, more recently, the Electoral Commission of Uganda. When in 2011 the Uganda EC went to inspect the printing of ballot papers for their elections, they were shocked to be taken to the premises of another company, namely G.I. Solutions who specialise in printing direct marketing material! (http://www.gi-solutionsgroup.com)
As the papers were already being printed (and S&O also offered to increase the agreed bribe to Uganda officials), no scandal ensued.
The various accounts show S&O to be a financially weak company. This is certainly not the kind of company you give serious security work for two reasons:-
1. Their lack of financial capacity. Since they have been running losses for a number of years, it is possible that they could be put under receivership any time. If they had already been advanced money to print ballot papers, there is a very real possibility of loss of funds or delay of election papers.
2. Their casual handling of the security printing process. Right now, they have approached two UK companies, namely A1 and T.A.L.L. to print the ballots for them. These are two companies that are also in financial distress and are not mainstream security printers. (Please see attached financial summaries of the two companies that also clearly indicate financial distress.)
As Smith cannot give them advance payment for the job, they have sought out larger printers to print the work for them on credit pending payment.
As any serious security printing company would be unwilling to do this highly sensitive work as a subcontractor, these companies will definitely end up doing something foolish as they are also financially desperate and need the money. Too many subcontractors means that there is a higher probability of an enemy of Kenya getting hold of the specifications and printing their own ballots to ensure that the credibility of the election is destroyed.
In the 2007 elections in Kenya, Smith & Ouzman had been given, among others, civic election ballot papers to print. They ran around looking for financing (which is exactly what they are doing right now)and when they were unable to find any company willing to print the papers for them on credit, they gave up and informed the then ECK about their problems. ECK forced them to hand over the contract to a company called Kalamazoo.
We are reliably informed that although this story has been leaked to the mainstream media, there appears to be a reluctance by the main media to print or publish the article
The reason for this suppression is unclear but clearly this is a monstrous problem with disastrous results if the ballot papers are tampered with
The article in the Sunday Nation that first broke the story of the single-sourcing of ballot papers was so sanitised that it was obvious the writer or editor had deliberately toned it down as no serious questions about S&O were asked. It actually turned out to be a PR exercise to prepare the public for a good hoodwinking.
As time has run out for going through a proper procurement review, it appears that the tender shall go ahead. This is a serious failing on the part of our system. It is like saying you have hired a man to dig your shamba and though you have realized he does not have capacity to dig it alone, you don’t have time to hire other more competent people before the rains are here.
An example of this flawed system is the tender for election kits awarded to Face Technologies of South Africa that was upheld on 9th December 2012 by PPOA but only due to time factor. It remains to be seen if Face Technologies, shall be able to supply the kits. (these kits are to be used for voter authentication on election day). If there are problems with voter authentication, then there shall automatically be allegations of rigging.
Although we do not rule out complicity, it appears that someone, or some people, are twisting the arm of the Chairman and also the CEO of IEBC to agree to this deal, possibly for money or more likely, to have a route to cause chaos if the election does not go their way.
We must ask ourselves this question: why are so many serious matters taken so lightly in this country? How is due diligence on these companies done? Are the commissioners or whoever conducted due diligence on Smith & Ouzman properly trained to carry out this exercise? Shall they be held to account when problems occur, as the surely will?
To conclude this story, we see a potential huge risk in printing these ballot papers in a process that can be easily compromised.
It is important for the government, citizens and all political parties to elevate vigilance and actively seek security and reinforcement that this process which marks a very crucial stage for the country is not given a false start
The stakes for this election are even far higher than 2007 which caused many hundreds of deaths and displaced over half a million people. A compromised election will clearly spell doom for the country.
We call on all the authorities to take a clear look a this issue and have it resolved quickly before it snowballs into a crisis.
Blog-Admin thanks the anonymous informant for contributing this story which is published in its entirety.
Supporting documents will be uploaded by the end of the week.