Now just six weeks away from scheduled legislative elections, materials such as ballot boxes, tabulation papers and indelible ink are beginning to arrive in country. But questions have arisen about the process of purchasing electoral materials, as electoral advisers have expressed concern about the sourcing from foreign countries such as South Africa and the United Arab Emirates and the sidelining of the CEP.
Although the Haitian government has been the largest single contributor to the financing of scheduled elections, those funds are largely channeled through the United Nations Development Program, which is administering the electoral fund. According to the UNDP, the Haitian government has put over $13 million into the fund. In addition to Haiti other countries contributing resources to the fund are Brazil, Canada, the United States, Japan and the European Union. It was the UNDP that contracted for electoral materials and not the Haitian electoral authority.
On Tuesday, over 4,000 electoral kits (booths, ballot boxes and indelible ink) and 1,800 observation kits arrived in Haiti aboard a Lufthansa cargo plane. Two more deliveries are expected in the comings days. The contract to produce and deliver the kits was awarded to Lithotec Exports, a South Africa-based company at a cost of $4,468,902, or about 12 percent of the total UNDP electoral fund. The fund currently has $38 million at its disposal, but electoral authorities believe the total cost of the elections will be over $60 million.
On Sunday, the president of the CEP, Pierre Louis Opont led a delegation to the United Arab Emirates to visit the company which was awarded the contract to print the ballots for the legislative election in August. Though it is clear a Dubai-based company was awarded the contract, no confirmation on the name of the company has yet to be released. Nonetheless, it is likely that the firm is Al Ghurair Printing & Publishing, a company the UNDP used for printing materials for elections in Afghanistan, Burundi, Mali and Libya and Madagascar in 2014.
Electoral adviser Jaccéus Joseph told Le Nouvelliste that the CEP was unaware that the UNDP has awarded these contracts. Members of the CEP were unable to answer specifics about the contracts because the Haitian state had entrusted the UNDP to manage the elections, another member of the CEP, Pierre Manigat Junior explained. Both representatives however were concerned with the sidelining of Haitian companies in the bidding process.
“I personally raised the issue with the UNDP,” said Joseph. “You cannot submit an underdeveloped country to international competitors for the manufacture of products that local firms can do,” he added. The electoral advisers stated that they have asked the UNDP for assurances that local firms will be used for the printing of materials for presidential and local elections scheduled for later this year.
It’s not just ballots that the UNDP is purchasing, however. It is currently soliciting offers for the production and dissemination of messages to voters as well as for the distribution and display of voter awareness posters.
The post-quake reconstruction effort was largely out-sourced, bypassing local companies in favor of companies from donor countries. With elections being funded in large part by the international community, the funds being administered by the U.N., security provided by U.N. troops and now even the printing of electoral materials by foreign companies; it appears as though Haiti’s elections have been out-sourced as well.