Below is a brilliant article written by Moses Otieno (Business Daily, 14 March 2013)
The system failures witnessed during the recent General Election are an indication of failure in Information Technology (IT) governance.
The responsibility for IT governance lies squarely with the Independent Boundaries and Electoral Commission (IEBC) officials. It is unfortunate that recent debate has been deflected to a hypothesis that Kenya’s IT professionals are incapable of managing complex system projects.
IT governance, simply defined, is the way in which an organisation aligns its IT strategy to its core mandate. It is owned and driven by the board of directors, in this case the commissioners.
The national consensus was that an automated process was a key ingredient to successful, free and fair elections. The commissioners had a responsibility to ensure that proper project management and systems development procedures were observed.
It was thus most embarrassing to listen to the chairman casually explaining that their live system was “multiplying spoilt votes by a factor of eight”.
This indicates that the chairman did not appreciate the magnitude of the responsibility he had to ensure smooth systems implementation, and chose to point the blame towards the employees in the IT department.
There are several instances where the commissioners abdicated their IT governance role, resulting in delays and substandard products that could not guarantee the realisation of a transparent electoral process.
For example, procurement of the biometric electronic voter registration kits (BVR) was unnecessarily protracted and only concluded in November 2012, four months to the elections and at a massive cost of Sh7.2 billion.
Due to these delays, the voter registration exercise was done within a month, disenfranchising millions of Kenyans. The rush by IEBC meant that the electronic voter identification kits (EVI) were also not tested.
When you consider the Results Transmission System, which famously crashed at Bomas, the Request for Proposals was put out on 21st December 2012. This for an election scheduled for March 4th 2013.
It is important that the IEBC commissioners are put under scrutiny and if found guilty of abdicating their corporate governance role they should be subjected to Section 30 of the IEBC Act.
Secondly, considering the growing importance of IT to business and government, it may be the right time to ask whether those in board positions have the competency to provide the required level of vigilance and leadership as far as IT governance is concerned.
Lastly, the failures of the systems at IEBC should not be an indictment of the state of professionalism in the country’s IT sector.
The writer is an IT professional