National Assembly rejects IEBC bid to cap polls spending

Wafula Chebukati

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati. FILE PHOTO | NMG

MPs have annulled a gazette notice that capped presidential campaign spending in the next General Election at Sh4.4 billion.

The National Assembly’s Committee on Delegated Legislation said the legal notice is null and void as it was published without the Parliament approval as required by the Election Campaign Financing Act 2013.

The MPs made the decision at a meeting with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman Wafula Chebukati on the draft Election Campaign Financing Regulations 2020, which the electoral agency presented to Parliament last Thursday.

Mr Chebukati, who was accompanied by commissioners Abdi Guliye and Boya Molu, was hard-pressed to explain why IEBC published the spending limits contrary to section 29 of the Election Campaign Finance Act, which require Parliament approval before publication in the official gazette.

The IEBC is required under Section 5 of the Election Campaign Financing Act 2013 to make rules, which must be submitted to Parliament for approval at least 12 months before the General Election.

Kenya goes to the polls on August 9, 2022. The Draft Election Campaign Financing Regulations 2020 must have been passed on or before August 9, 2021.

“What you published was in total contravention of the law. Appreciate that you are time-barred. We cannot sit here and engage in a futile academic exercise because these regulations and the spending limits are null and void,” Charles Njagagua, who chairs the committee, told Mr Chebukati.

The committee accused the IEBC chairperson of mischief in publishing the campaign spending caps and tabling draft Election Campaign Finance regulations at the tail end of the deadline.

We cannot amend the Campaign Finance law today or approve the regulations and limits because we are into the 12 months deadline. I propose we nullify them,” Gilgil MP Martha Wangari said.

Attempts by Mr Chebukati to convince MPs that the spending caps were not part of the regulations failed.

“We wanted the Act amendment and we proposed amendments which were submitted to Parliament in August 2020. But they are yet to be acted upon by this House,” Mr Chebukati said.

He also failed to persuade MPs the public were consulted during public participation when the commission first published the rules in 2016.

“The law on Election Campaign Finance of 2013 has not changed. We did public participation in 2016 and the regulations we submitted have not changed save for the date,” Mr Chebukati said.

MPs rejected the explanation arguing public participation of 2016 cannot apply for the 2021 regulations.

The nullification of the draft Election Campaign Finance rules and the spending caps means that political parties can spend unlimited amount of money during campaigns to popularise presidential candidates to voters.

Mr Chebukati had in a gazette notice dated August 9, 2021, spelt out the contribution limits and penalties a candidate and political parties may incur for breaking the rules.

Those found guilty of breaching the annulled spending rules would have been liable to a fine not exceeding Sh2 million or a jail term not exceeding five years or both.

The annulled rules had limited spending by candidates for governor, women representative and senator seats to between Sh21.9 million and Sh117.3 million, depending on the size and population of the devolved units.