2010 general election countdown: New controversy over ballot paper printing By ThisDay Reporter 29th March 2010 Minister of State, Prime Minister's Office (Policy, Co-ordination and Parliamentary Affairs), Philip Marmo PROCUREMENT TUG-OF-WAR: A young mother casts her vote during a past election. A number of senior government officials are allegedly planning to hijack a multi-billion shilling tender for the printing and supply of ballot papers for the 2010 general election in a bid to pocket illegal kickbacks from the contract, THISDAY can now reveal. Although the government has already made a decision to award the tender to the state-run Government Press, there is behind-the-scenes maneuvering to take the contract to a private company. This has allowed the otherwise straightforward matter of where the key polling materials for this year's presidential and parliamentary elections will be coming from to become tainted by the spectre of possible grand corruption. "The Government Press cannot give commissions to government officials for such a tender...that's why some senior public officials are going all out to ensure it (the tender) is awarded to a private company," a well-placed source close to the tender process told THISDAY. The National Electoral Commission (NEC) has issued a general procurement notice for the supply of the ballot papers. According to details of tender number IE/018/2009-10/HQ/G/27, an invitation to bidders will be formally issued on May 5 this year. The bids closing and opening will be on June 22 and the successful bidder will be announced on July 15. But according to our sources, unnamed senior government officials are seeking to hijack the tender process, by-pass the Government Press, and offer the job to a private company that is willing to dish out bribes for the contract. It is also believed that at least one or more leading local businessmen are also involved in the conspiracy. The Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office (policy, coordination and parliamentary affairs), Phillip Marmo, announced in September last year that the task of printing ballot papers for the 2010 presidential and parliamentary elections would be directly handled by the government. According to Marmo, the decision to print the ballot papers locally follows the purchase of state-of-the-art printing equipment by the Government Press. Said our sources close to the tendering process: "It seems these senior civil servants see the ballot papers tender as a great opportunity to guarantee themselves a comfortable retirement from government service." "They are doing all they can to exploit loopholes in the Public Procurement Act of 2005 and its regulations to ensure the Government Press is rejected for the job and the contract is awarded to a private printer instead." The Government Press was also by-passed for the similarly multi-billion shilling national identity cards printing tender, and is now in imminent danger of missing out again in the ballot papers contract despite being known for printing quality documents in a cost-effective manner, the sources asserted. NEC has a history of printing ballot papers for various elections abroad at huge costs to the nation in the past. The decision to have the ballot papers for this year's general election printed locally is also understood to have been fiercely opposed in some sections of government. The official thinking is that the Government Press is now best-suited for the job since it now has the requisite modern equipment to do so and can guarantee safety and security of the documents until election time. Minister Marmo was not immediately available for comment on the reported plot to derail the official government plan over printing and supply of the ballot papers.