Imani Africa has accused the Electoral Commission (EC) of nepotism in the award of a $72 million contract for the procurement of a hardware technology to be used to compile the new voter register.
The think tank alleged, amongst many things, that a technical committee set up by the EC used a day to disqualify more experienced bidders for the contract and awarded to its favourite, Thales.
“Some of the reasons proffered for reducing its technical eligibility in favour of Thales were preposterous to say the least,” IMANI said in a statement issued at the weekend.
Describing the EC’s handling of the technical aspects of the register compilation as “shambolic and lacking sound engineering standards, it said: “If it continues along that path, the spate of unresolved disputes about registration, exhibition and adjudication shall likely impact the credibility of the elections in due course.”
According to IMANI, the committee’s claim that it could not find evidence of business risk against Thales, unlike the other bidders, was laughable since there existed many corruption allegations against Thales and actual investigations.
It indicated that in 2005, the World Bank’s Integrity Unit blacklisted the company from participating in any of their projects because of its use of bribery to win business around the world.
It said five years later, they were ordered after being found guilty in a serious investigation to pay 630 million euros back to the Taiwanese government for serious procurement abuse, including the paying of bribes.
It said in 2015, the Gemalto unit of Thales was implicated in corruption of election officials in Gabon while identification (ID) cards developed by Gemalto recently for the Estonian government were proven defective and recalled.
“So, regarding the claims of the so-called technical evaluation committee not to have found any information on business risks related to Thales and Gemalto, one can only conclude, considering how widely known these matters are, that the cause of the Committee’s blindness was the need to rig the tender in favour of Thales and Gemalto and to the detriment of Smartmatic,” it said.
IMANI also expressed concern that no word had been heard about the tender for the software to power the entire system.
On the timeline of April 18, 2020, for the compilation of the register, the think tank said the EC had not completed award notices to tenderers for the hardware and software components of the Biometric Voter Management System (BVMS), pricing negotiations and approval procedures, legal drafting and negotiation phase, amongst other important requirements.
“Even delaying the commencement of the registration till June 2020 carries serious risks as four months is much too short a time to complete all the standard procurement, engineering, commissioning, testing and deployment elements of such a critical and mission-sensitive rollout,” the statement said.
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