SA company delays Kenya poll

2013-03-10 10:00

A South African company supplied the electronic biometric registration kits that threw the Kenyan election into disarray on Monday.

The Pretoria-based IT company, Face Technologies, supplied the hardware and software, which was used for biometric voter authentication on voting day. This was according to Ian Minty, the company’s executive manager.

The kits were meant to ensure that voters could use their fingerprints to verify presence on the voters’ roll.

But the system failed and voting stations had to resort to paper records and manual registration, which slowed down the voting process.

Minty said: “Face Technologies has not received any communication about these failures. We cannot comment on press reports.”

Face Technologies won the $55 million (R499.5 million) tender for the kits despite the company not being the lowest bidder. The new technology was introduced to stop the widespread vote-rigging in Kenya that led to the killing of more than 1?200 people in post-election violence in 2007/08.

The system was also supposed to set up communication between voting stations and central voting centres to collate votes, but connectivity problems caused massive delays and, in some areas, counting had to be redone.

Eventually, counting had to be done manually after the system broke down.

About 300 000 ballots were rejected because they were placed in the wrong ballot boxes.

Kenyan leaders said the biometric system was not an answer to all Kenya’s voting problems. But a report by Nairobi-based researchers at the Institute of Security Studies believe the new system could make a difference.

“In spite of the challenges, the system, properly implemented, could help reduce the inefficacies of manual paper registration and eliminate Kenya’s problem of ‘ghost’ voters,” the report reads.

FaceTechnologies was also involved in a $3?million loss to the National Social Security Fund in Uganda when it was asked to set up a computerised system to deal with social security.

Ugandan MP Elijah Okupa reportedly told Parliament an international auditing firm fingered Face Technologies in a report about the loss over identity cards.

Minty said: “The tender never came to fruition due to internal challenges within various Uganda government ministries. Uganda still has not implemented a national ID project.”

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