Namibia: Plot Thickens in Election Tender Dispute
New information has surfaced about the manner in which the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) awarded the N$63,8 million electronic voter registration contract to a South African IT firm, Face Technologies.
It has emerged that Face Technologies initially tendered for N$83 million while another shortlisted South African company, Lithotech Exports, tendered for N$63 million. Lithotech, a subsidiary of South African Bidvest Paper Plus, is now preparing to take the matter to court.
It alleges that the awarding of the contract to Face Technology at N$63.8 million was not fair since the ECN appears to have colluded with Face Technologies to secure the deal.
After the initial bids by the two companies where they quoted N$83 million and N$63 million respectively, they were allegedly told by the ECN to submit a second round of bids.
This was based on the fact that the ECN's initial specifications stipulated that the voter registration machines must be able to read ten fingerprints, which was deemed impracticable. In the second round, Face Technologies lowered its bid to N$63.8 million while Lithotech came in at N$57.1 million.
Section D (5) of the tender requirements indicates that the two companies were required to be given seven days to design a prototype of the machines which they would then demonstrate to the election body. Lithotech alleges that ECN bent its own rules and gave the companies only two days to design the prototype.
"It seems these guys already had Face Technologies in mind because to design the system in two days is just not reasonable," said a Lithotech representative in Namibia, who declined to be named.
ECN director Moses Ndjarakana said last week that ECN has commented enough on the matter. "In the context of the impending court challenge we would not comment further," he said.
Some tenderers have also asked why a contract of this magnitude was granted exemption from the normal tender procedures although there is no urgent need for general voter registration. General voter registration usually takes place every ten years and it was last done in 2009.
The tender was given a type of exemption called "fast-track procurement", where prospective tenderers are given one week to prepare their bids. The normal time frame for tenders advertised by the Tender Board is 21 days.
At least 30 companies collected application forms for the voter registration tender but only five submitted bids. The Tender Board gave the ECN the authority to select the successful tenderer.
"How can one prepare documents for such a huge tender in one week," asked a company representative who preferred anonymity.