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ECN fumbles yet again

by Musa Carter

The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) has yet again been found lacking transparency and causing total confusion among tenderers as it continues to prepare for the upcoming elections in 2014.
The ECN has this year alone issued four major tenders – one for the implementation of a mobile voters’ registration; supply of ballot papers; supply of various uniforms and promotional items and for election of materials.
The tender for the implementation of a mobile voters’ registration closed on the 25 January this year; that for the supply of ballot papers closed on 14 February; for the supply of various uniforms and promotional items closed on the 23rd of last month and that for election materials closed on the 28th of last month.  
ECN did not give ample time for the tender for the supply of various uniforms and promotional items that closed on the 23rd of last month as evidenced by the number of tenderers, which was a mere 17 companies.
This massive tender was posted with only one week of the deadline not giving tenderers ample time to consult with suppliers.
Of the 17 tenderers, 10 of them lacked certain certificates, which are deemed essential to the exemption of potential suppliers.
ECN, also in its vague advertisement, did not explain clearly where to deposit the tender documents.
It was only stated that the tender would close at the Ministry of Finance, on the ground floor when in actual fact, it was under the care of the Tender Board.
Many of the tenderers wasted time gallivanting around and confused, as there was no tender box at the Ministry of Finance.
Some tenders were handed in late at the Tender Board as it was explained that they had been handed in at the Ministry, way before the closing time of 11am on the closing date.
This is not the first time ECN has been caught on the back foot. Earlier this year in another controversial tender award for the supply and implementation of a Digital Mobile Voters’ System, the tender got awarded to a South African firm called Face Technologies, even though there were four more local bidders who had reasonable tender prices of more than N$83m.
The Commission defended its honour with a press statement, which stated that it had complied with tender regulations and practises.
It also stated that the final decision to tender awards was preceded by ‘careful consideration and scrutiny of proposal documents’, hence the awarding of the tender to Face Technologies.
It may be questionable as to how careful ECN is after numerous tenderers were misled by their vague and little detailed short period advertisements.
On the other hand, the tender of the ballot papers, which supposedly closed on the 14th last month still, does not have details of the tenderers.