Ideas & Debate

Are IEBC and Kenyans ready for August poll?


Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairman Wafula Chebukati. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG

I am not sure there are many countries — even in Africa — that devote as much time to electioneering as Kenya. We need to begin an interrogation of the social and economic costs that our perennial politicking imposes on our growth and development agenda.

Indeed, it is difficult not to envy the short, sharp electoral seasons we recently witnessed in France and the United Kingdom.

Over there, it’s done and dusted in a matter of weeks, not months and years.

This isn’t to say that elections aren’t important — especially our forthcoming slugfest. Yet, as the protagonists sell their agendas to the populace, concerns remain around Kenya’s and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s readiness for the main event.

Let’s take a step back. A May 2017 report titled Ready… or Not? an Assessment of Kenya’s Preparedness for the August 2017 General Election by AfriCOG and KPTJ civil society lobby pointedly noted that “preparations thus far have been plagued by several of the same problems that marred the last election cycle, suggesting a dearth of lessons learned.”

Procurement delays and irregularities, voter registration difficulties, the defeat of important campaign finance and gender parity laws, and failure to enforce leadership and integrity legal provisions are some of the challenges informing what they observe is an increasingly violent pre-election environment.

Not all of this is to do with IEBC, but overall, the signs are such that I know of personal friends and professional colleagues who have decided to treat August as a “no work, no income” month.

The harsh reality is that the IEBC cannot escape the limelight. As I have noted before, they are managing three inter-linked processes.

One, getting a proper voter register. Two, getting candidates on the ballot.

Three, ensuring that the electoral process works like a dream.

Last week, we got a media update from the IEBC on the voter register, following the KPMG audit.

Although the audit has been dismissed by some as incomplete and unsatisfactory, it contains data and findings that should call us all to attention.

To begin, 78 per cent of the eligible voter population is registered.

That is, one out of every five potential voters isn’t registered for whatever reason. This is based on the biometric register.

That’s when the fun begins. In the 19.6 million biometric voter register (BVR), almost three million records are inaccurate when compared to ID and passport records through inconsistencies in names, birth dates or gender.

Half a million BVR records have at least one irregularity. What about dead voters?

Because the 2017 register builds from the 2013 one, the Civil Registration Department (CRD) estimated adult deaths in that time at 1.5 million people.

Only 41 per cent of these deaths, 621,832, were registered. The CRD made 70 per cent of this register, 435,175 records, available for audit.

Only 45 per cent of these records, 196,988 records, were “auditable”. From these auditable records, KPMG found that 46 per cent, 92,277, related to deceased persons on the BVR.

So, of the total estimated deaths between 2012 and 2016, only 41 per cent were registered, 28 per cent were made available for audit, 13 per cent were deemed to be “auditable” and six per cent were identified as deceased persons in the BVR.

Few have noted the KPMG estimate that up to one million of the 1.5 million deaths might be sitting in the BVR. Given all of this, it would be a minor miracle if the IEBC publishes a clean voter register this week.

IEBC’s second core task; finalising the post-nomination list of over 15,000 candidates, to get the ballot ready seems to be in a similar state of “un-readiness” — given the number of cases still in court.

Of course, we’ve forgotten about the candidate management system that was supposed to be part of the Kenya Integrated Electoral Management System (KIEMS) that should have been fully tested by now.
The third task — regarding last-minute tenders vis-à-vis the electoral process — is now in the court of public opinion. So, here’s an innocent question — why separate the tender for ballot paper printing from KIEMS? Isn’t that what integration is all about?

Mostly, however, is Kenya — not IEBC alone — ready or not?