The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has given an American company the nod to supply biometric voter registration (BVR) de-duplication hardware and software notwithstanding the court challenge of the procurement process.
The electoral body said there was a constitutional requirement for it to hold a credible election in or by mid-2018 and a duly compiled voters’ roll should in place in time for the polls.
Laxton Group Limited, which in June last year, won the tender to supply BVR kits ahead of the polls, had appealed to the Administrative Court against ZEC’s decision to award an American company, IPSIDY Inc the contract to supply BVR de-duplication hardware and software.
The equipment is critical in eliminating redundant or repeated copies of data in a biometric system.
The appeal by Laxton Group came at a time ZEC was registering voters using the biometric voter registration system.
The electoral body on Wednesday certified tender Number ZEC/SFT/02/2017 to pave way for the New York-based company to deliver the equipment.
“Time being of the essence in the implementation of the new registration process under Section 36A of the Electoral Act and there being an urgent public interest in the conduct and conclusion of the new biometric voter registration system in time for the conduct of the 2018 general election in order to comply with the Constitutional requirement to hold a credible election in or by mid-2018 for which a duly compiled voters’ roll is essential, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission hereby certifies in terms of s44(2) (b) of the Procurement Act (Chap 22:14), that the procurement process under tender No ZEC/SFT/02/2017 should proceed notwithstanding the noting of an appeal by Laxton Group Limited under case No ACC 01/18,” said ZEC acting chairman Emmanuel Magade in a letter dated January 9, 2018.
In its appeal, the Laxton Group Limited accused the electoral body of introducing a new service provider at the 11th hour, which might cause problems and delays to the current voter registration process among other allegations.
The Chinese firm sought the setting aside of the tender awarded to IPSIDY Inc.
In its response, ZEC contends that the appeal by Laxton Group Limited was fatally defective and without merit.
Magade raised several preliminary points to show how defective the appeal is to warrant the court to grant the relief sought.
“It is my respectful view that the manner in which the applicant’s application was executed . . . renders it fatally and incurably defective,” said Magade.
“There is therefore, no application before the court to which the court’s discretion as to the existence or otherwise of urgency can attach.”
Magade also said Laxton Group Limited’s appeal had no merit as it was done to vex ZEC and delay the procurement process of the de-duplication hardware and software.
“It is by that token also a frivolous appeal that should not be permitted to delay such procurement,” he said.
Magade also said the commission had already filed with the court a certification in terms of section 44 (2) of the Procurement Act highlighting the urgent public interest in proceeding with the procurement process.
“It follows therefore, that the appeal is demonstrated as having no prospect of success the allied contention of urgency by the applicant must also be deemed to have no merit,” said Magade.
IPSIDY Inc also filed its response to the appeal on Monday.
The company’s project manager in Zimbabwe Clyde Makusha averred that the appeal by Laxton Group Limited had no prospects of success on appeal.
He argues that the appeal is simply meant to unnecessarily delay the procurement of de-duplication hardware and software that is vital to the capacity of zec to conduct its constitutional mandate.
On the relief sought by Laxton Group Limited, Makusha argues that there are no circumstances warranting the court to usurp the powers of ZEC in dealing with State procurement.
“In short the applicant in the appeal is petitioning the court to award it the tender,” said Makusha.
“That is to set aside the decision of court a quo and put in place its own decision. That is untenable. If the court finds that the process was flawed, which in this case was not, it can only set the decision aside and remit the matter back with directions.”
Makusha further contends that the established principle of the country’s law is that an appeal is dealt with on the record of proceedings
He said there could not be any logic in judging the outcome of deliberations of a tribunal by documents that were not presented before it.