So the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) Kits have arrived in the country, and not a moment to soon, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission was already making plans to revert to manual registration in the event that the kits arrived later than November 5th.
“Is there a plan B? Yes there’s a plan B. We’ll go back to our manual register. We have a register of 12.4 million people. We will update that one. But that’s the worst case scenario and I’m hoping we don’t have to get there,” stated the IEBC Chair, Isaack Hassan, last week. As it turns out a plan B for voter registration will not be necessary. The first batch of 8,200 BVR kits arrived in the country on Thursday, with the rest expected to arrive on Saturday. The IEBC will now embark on the training of 29,000 clerks to use the kits.
The acquisition of BVR kits has been mired in controversy from the start; from a faulty tendering process in which 18 of the 29 bids were disqualified, and the chosen tender disputed, delayed payments, accusations between various government officials about a plan to delay the elections over the BVR kits. The controversy surrounding the acquisition of the BVR kits will have costs in terms of both time and money.
The delay in the delivery of the BVR kits will definitely have implications on the voter registration process. Last week the IEBC announced that the voter registration process would be delayed by two weeks. The voter registration process that was meant to take place between the 1st and the 30th of the November will now take place between 12th November and 11th December (and the IEBC Chair has indicated that there will be no extensions should voters not register within the period).
In addition the government will again have to ask Parliament to change the election law to reduce the number of days required for the inspection of the final voters roll. The inspection period will be reduced from 30 to 15 days and the period of gazettement from 30 to 21 days. This is not the first reduction in the time period for inspection and gazettement of the voters roll, both deadlines have been reduced before with the inspection period being reduced from 60 days to 30 days and gazettement from 45 to 30 days.
In terms of cost taxpayers will be required to pay in excess of 9.6 billion shillings for the BVR kits, whose price was earlier estimated at 3.9 billion shillings. While there may be a collective sight of relief over the delivery of the BVR kits, surely the government could have done better to save tax payers money, as well as ensure sufficient time for voter registration and due diligence.