Letters

Will IEBC let down Kenya again in next General Election?

iebc

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission [IEBC] Chairman Wafula Chebukati. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG

Summary

  • The first mass voter registration in October 2021 was a big disappointment, only registering 25 percent of eligible new voters, despite a court-mandated extension.
  • The IEBC has not had a substantive CEO since the previous office holder’s ignominious exit in 2018.
  • The public has been informed that the General Election will cost at least Sh40 billion.

Flashback to 2017. In a series of reports released by the Africa Centre for Open Governance, several key election preparedness challenges were identified.

Two months to the polls, the Public Procurement Oversight Authority had found fault with the Independent electoral agency’s tendering of ballot printing services and there was pending litigation on the matter.

An audit by KPMG had estimated that there were more than one million dead voters on the voters’ register. Questions were also being asked about the reintroduction of manual processes as an alternative to electronic results transmission, which had raised public suspicion and doubt.

In a devastating blow, the Election and Boundaries Commission’s (IEBC) IT manager was found dead hardly a week before the election in a still unresolved murder. The rest is history.

The country set off on a political roller coaster that resulted in a Supreme Court election nullification, two presidential polls, and mass protests. President Uhuru Kenyatta in his latest State of the Nation address estimated that Kenya lost Sh1 trillion during that election season.

Fast forward to 2022. The first mass voter registration in October 2021 was a big disappointment, only registering 25 percent of eligible new voters, despite a court-mandated extension. This prompted a second briefer round in January 2022.

While the dismal numbers have been blamed on voter apathy, a deeper underlying issue is confidence in the entire political system of which the electoral process is a key cog.

The IEBC has not had a substantive CEO since the previous office holder’s ignominious exit in 2018. An advertisement for a new chief executive expires in January, just over six months to the General Election.

That’s a big red flag. Even an entry-level job has a settling-in period as one learns the ropes. The job of IEBC chief executive is extremely complex and should never have taken this long to fill substantively.

The public has been informed that the General Election will cost at least Sh40 billion. That’s costly, especially in a Covid-19 environment as Kenya faces a cash crunch as we battle to manage our sovereign debt.

There was a lot of back and forth between the IEBC and the Treasury on providing the full amount until the recently formed National Multi-Sectoral Consultative Forum on Election Preparedness resolved to close the budget gap.

Incidentally, after concerns were raised by various political players the IEBC exited the forum citing independence issues.

The IEBC’s performance since 2017 would be laughed off as a comedy of errors if it did not involve elections that are quite literally a matter of life or death.

All is not lost though. After a long-drawn-out process, the commission is now fully constituted with the public recruitment and prompt swearing-in of four new commissioners in September 2021.

Time will tell but at first glance, they seem up to the task and Kenyans expect them to challenge the status quo to ensure integrity in the August poll.

As the saying goes, like Caesar’s wife, the IEBC must be above suspicion. Every person of goodwill is praying that they get it right at the first try this time. The alternative is too big a burden for us to bear.