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Criticism sparked by delay of biometric election systems unveiling in Uganda, procurement in Kenya

Criticism sparked by delay of biometric election systems unveiling in Uganda, procurement in Kenya

Uganda’s Electoral Commission (EC) is being asked to provide details on its Biometric Voter Verification Kits (BVVK) and related technologies by a team of local election observers, the Daily Monitor reports.

The country goes to the polls in a presidential election next week, after a campaign period marred by a deteriorating human rights situation, according to the UN.

The biometric kits were supplied by Smartmatic and used in the 2016 election, with voters scanning their fingerprints at polling stations to verify their identity. In September, the company won a Sh82.8 billion (US$22.4 million) tender to supply equipment for the 2021 election.

A representative of the Centre for Constitutional Governance criticized the delay and expressed concern about the training of the officials who will operate the biometric system.

“Eight days to the general elections and the EC officials have not come out to tell us whether the machines are ready or not. We don’t have information from EC to show whether the biometric technology arrived or not,” said CCG Executive Director Sarah Bireete, according to the Monitor. She added that it is unclear if the technology provides back-up or audit capabilities.

A representative of political party Renewed Uganda suggested the EC’s delay in providing details is suspect because of a pattern of problems in its management of opposition campaigns.

Observers suggested the biometric kits should have been unveiled for the public earlier this week.

EC Chairperson Justice Simon Byabakama responded that the body plans to provide details about the BVVKs soon, saying: “The commission in its quest to exhibit transparency and inclusiveness in the processes, we are going to invite at an appropriate time the political parties or candidates at the demonstration stage of how this new system operates. This system is going to be used at all polling stations across the country.”

Controversy erupts as Idemia seems likely to win Kenya contract renewal

Despite the problematic public perception caused by a failure of biometric election systems provided by Idemia in Kenya’s 2017 election, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is planning to renew the company’s contract “because of time and costs,” Kenya’s Nation reports.

The IEBC has asked to be exempted from centralized IT procurement processes, according to the Nation, and argues that reusing the system would be less costly than procuring another one, though it has not sought quotes.

Kenya will hold a referendum in June 2021 on constitutional changes.

The Kenya Integrated Elections Management System (KIEMS) was provided by Safran Morpho prior to the deals that resulted in its renaming as Idemia. The company was blamed for problems with the 2017 general election, resulting in action by Kenya’s National Assembly to cancel its public contracts and block it from new ones, which was overturned by the country’s High Court.

In an IEBC document dated to late-November, the body considers the potential benefits of running a competitive procurement bid process to consider a new supplier, but ultimately recommends continuing with Idemia’s biometric voter verification technology.

The controversy seems bound to continue, as The Standard carries an allegation that government corruption led to an intentional delay in the decision on tendering the voter identification system.

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