By Star Team
The prominent Al Ghurair family of Dubai hosted President Uhuru Kenyatta at the famous Burj Al Khalifa in Dubai before a Sh2.5 billion tender to print IEBC ballot papers was awarded to Al Ghurair Printing & Publishing.
The Star has established that during his visit to Dubai in February 2016, the President was introduced to the Al Ghurair family that won the controversial tender.
Chairman Majid Al Ghurair again led a delegation from the Dubai Chamber of Commerce to Nairobi in October last year and was hosted by the President at State House, Nairobi. A picture from the State House meeting was published at the chamber’s website, www.dubaichamber.com
The IEBC tender has caused political tensions and is threatening to poison the atmosphere ahead of the August 8 polls.
Representatives of the family at the Dubai meeting are said to have been Abdallah Aziz Al Ghurair and Majid Saif al Ghurair, both sons of the founder Abdullah.
At this meeting they displayed to the President their vast business interests and introduced their security printing company for the upcoming IEBC tender.
Top Jubilee officials at the meeting allegedly promised to deliver the contract, the Star has been told.
In October last year, Majid visited Kenya as head of delegation of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, which he chairs.
“The President then introduced him to (IEBC CEO) Ezra Chiloba,” a source familiar with the behind-the-scenes intrigues told the Star yesterday. “That is how IEBC became hell-bent on delivering the printing tender to Al Ghurair.”
Chiloba did not respond to inquiries yesterday.
Al Ghurair Printing & Publishing is said to have two powerful local partners. One is the uncle of a prominent Jubilee leader, the other is a close associate of a former Cabinet Secretary who was swept away in a graft purge after Uhuru tabled the List of Shame in Parliament in March 2015. He is said to sit in the board of a luxury hotel substantially owned by the ex-CS.
The man identified as Kairu is said to have been instrumental in delivering a separate tender of ballot boxes to a company known as Belgon Engineering.
“Kairu started infiltrating IEBC from 2013,” a source familiar with the details said, comparing recentIEBC contracts to the ChickenGate scandal. Kairu has done business at the Government Press for many years and has extensive contacts in government.
Yesterday, NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga flatly rejected the IEBC’s re-awarding of the tender to the Dubai firm.
He told an IEBC international conference on election preparedness the firm has deep and longstanding links with top Jubilee politicians.
Raila warned the the involvement of Al Ghurair greatly compromises the credibility of the August election and demanded IEBC reconsider the decision for the sake of Kenya.
The opposition chief said owners of the firm hosted senior Jubilee officials in Dubai three years ago when they sealed the deal to supply the 120 million ballot papers.
The firm has local franchise holders who are known players in the August elections, the ex-Prime Minister told an attentive conference.
“Officials of the firm were in Kenya in October 2016 as head of the business delegation brought by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, during which trip they held further talks on this contract with Jubilee officials,” Raila said. “As NASA, our stand remains that the involvement of this firm in this elections bodes ill and compromises credibility of the elections.”
Raila spoke in the presence of top African Union officials and diplomats.
IEBC in October last year awarded the tender to Al Ghurair but the decision was nullified by the High Court in February this year. Judge George Odunga directed the process to start afresh.
IEBC resorted to restricted tendering that was again terminated by the Public Procurement Administrative Review Board, which accused the commission of blatantly violating the law.
But last week, chairman Wafula Chebukati announced the IEBC would go for direct procurement after consultation with stakeholders.
Raila denied the opposition was consulted.
“It casts a dark shadow which could have been avoided over the credibility of the August elections. There appears to have been a clear determination by the IEBC to award this tender to the Dubai-based firm , no matter what,” he said.
Raila has previously insisted that in 2013, Smith & Ouzman, the UK firm awarded the contract to print ballot papers, printed excess that were marked and stuffed into ballot boxes in Jubilee strongholds.
Some of these ballot papers, according to Raila,were later confiscated at Kenyatta University.
Chebukati defended their choice of Al Ghurair. He said the company has modern equipment and had allocated some to produce Kenya’s ballot papers, with adequate back-up and a good delivery plan.
Speaking from Eldoret State Lodge yesterday, Uhuru warned politicians against threatening the IEBC and reiterated he will hand over power peacefully if defeated.
“The IEBC must must be given space. They need to be given respect. We must not undermine [their] authority in the court of public opinion,” Uhuru said. “For IEBC to ensure public trust, they must be given space to operate without harassment or negativity.”
NASA has also dismissed the KPMG voters audit report and warned IEBC is frustrating electoral reforms to manipulate August polls.
In a statement on Tuesday, the opposition coalition said Coalition said KPMG failed to declare documents used to do “shoddy work which would have been done by IEBC clerks”.
“More worrisome is that it is not clear which was the source register — a biometric or green book — since IEBC has been operating with parallel registers whose accuracy is suspect,” NASA campaign chairman and ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi said.
“Friday’s KPMG report on their alleged audit of the national voter register is, to say the least, shoddy work, and therefore a major betrayal of the people of Kenya.”
The firm said an estimated additional 1,037,260 dead voters could be on the roll. It also recommended the removal of over 92,277 dead voters from the IEBC register.
But NASA listed several shortcomings, which it termed evident, and called upon IEBC to “immediately publish the list of the dead voters, those of double and multiple registrations and those of other inconsistencies for Kenyans to verify on their own”.