Eastbourne firm in election printing row

Smith & Ouzman, printers in Brampton Road Hampden Park Eastbourne. February 21st 2013 E08189P

Smith & Ouzman, printers in Brampton Road Hampden Park Eastbourne. February 21st 2013 E08189P

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An Eastbourne printing firm has been given the go ahead to print ballot papers in Kenya after a legal battle.

Smith and Ouzman was awarded the multi million pound contract by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to print the papers but two rival companies petitioned the Kenyan High Court to challenge the decision to give it to the Brampton Road firm without floating an open tender and wanted the procurement started afresh.

But the High Court recently dismissed the case, which effectively blocked the IEBC from printing ballot papers.

Justice George Odunga ruled that revoking the contract awarded to Smith and Ouzman was “against public interest” with only three weeks to the General Election.

The judge upheld submissions by lawyers Antony Lubulellah and Wilfred Mutubwa that had defended the commission’s contested move to single source and award the supply tender to Smith and Ouzman.

“To direct that the process starts afresh may not augur well for the future of this country,” said the judge. “Kenyans have invested time, physical, emotional and spiritual energy and must be given an opportunity to elect their leaders.

“The court must balance the will of over 40 million Kenyans against an individual who may be dissatisfied with the procuring entity.”

The judge said sections of the procurement law had provisions for choosing between direct procurement and that it was a fact that the issue had been compounded by late funding hence the urgency and the impracticality to resorting to any other processes of procurement.

The IEBC had equally expressed its reservations for a reversal saying it may disrupt the much awaited March 4 elections.

Smith and Ouzman have completed printing the first batch of ballot papers.