A United Kingdom based company contracted to print ballot papers to be used in by elections in Zambia is appearing in court on corruption charges.
The company apparently sub contracts most of the tenders it wins, and fellow printers in the UK complained about the corrupt payments the company made to secure contracts.
Smith and Ouzman Limited, two of its directors, an employee and one agent have been charged by the Serious Fraud Office in the UK with offences of corruptly agreeing to make payments totalling 413, 552.12 British pounds, contrary to section 1 of Corruption Act 1906.
It is alleged that these payments were used to influence the awarding of business contracts to the company.
According to documents obtained by the Daily Nation, the alleged offences relate to transactions in Mauritania, Ghana, Somali and Kenya between November 2006 and December 2010. The SFO began its investigations in October 2010.
Alongside the company itself, the individuals charged were Chris Smith, the former chairman of Smith and Ouzman, Nick Smith, the sales and marketing director of the firm, Tim Forrester, its international sales manager, and Abdirahman Omar an agent for the business.
The first hearing took place on October 23 at Westminster Magistrates Court while the second hearing was heard on November 6 at the Southwark Crown Court.
Smith and Ouzman trace its print history back to 1845. The 100 employee firm was number 248 in last year’s PrintWeek top 500 with sales of 9.2 million British pounds. It produces wide range of specialist security print items including cheques, tickets, ballet papers, local currencies and other secure documents.
The Electoral Commission of Zambia public relations manager Chris Akufuna last year confirmed that the Commission awarded the tender to print ballot papers for the parliamentary by elections to Smith and Ouzman.
The Commission had received two bids, one from Smith and Ouzman and another from Ren-Form cc of Johannesburg in South Africa.
Previously ECZ had been using Universal Print Group (UPG) of Durban South Africa to print electoral materials such as ballot papers but mystery now surrounds why the Commission decided to engage the British company to print the electoral materials.
Meanwhile last year a UK firm filed a complaint with the procurement authority seeking to scuttle sourcing of ballot papers for Kenya’s largest general election from Smith and Ouzman.
In the petition to Morris Juma, the director general of the Public procurement oversight authority (PPOA) security printer Aero Vote Ltd said the procurement of the materials was done contrary to procurement rules.
The company had also questioned the capacity of Smith and Ouzman to deliver adding that the company which had just printed ballot papers for Uganda does not print the ballots but instead outsources to various printers.
Last year in his address to parliament, President Sata promised that all election ballot papers will in future be printed locally.
Smith and Ouzman printed the ballot papers for the Chama North, Muchinga and Livingstone Central parliamentary by elections and ECZ invited all political parties’ representatives to verify the materials when they arrived in the country with Akufuna saying the ECZ was committed to transparency and accountability. However during the verification of the ballot papers, NAREP’s representative Clement Chazanga bemoaned the poor quality of the papers saying that some pictures of the candidates were not visible.