The electoral body drastically cut its budget for the general election but still faces stiff resistance from Treasury and a parliamentary committee. Commissioners led by IEBC chair Issack Hassan and chief electoral officer James Oswago yesterday presented a Sh31.5 billion budget, which is nearly Sh10 billion lower than their previous one, to the Parliamentary Committee on Justice and Legal affairs. Cabinet had approved Sh17.5 billion for the March 4, 2013 elections which IEBC has rejected. "We request this committee to give us the benefit of the doubt. We are a public institution that is funded by taxpayers. We will be audited and we want to assure you that every single coin will be accounted for," Hassan pleaded with the committee yesterday.
The chair told the committee that his staff at the Coast have been receiving death threats by the outlawed Mombasa Republican Council. "Today I have written to the Minister of Internal Security and Minister for Justice about what happened to the commission. This is now growing into a bigger problem and that the government needs to address this issue. Our staff are being threatened and intimidated. "The MRC spokesman has denied that MRC was behind these attacks it but our staff have been receiving sms' from them," said Hassan.
Despite the pleas, Treasury representative at yesterday's sitting Isaiah Ochelle told the committee that IEBC has not proved why they needed the huge allocation. Ochelle said IEBC did not have the capacity to absorb the kind of money they were asking for. After deliberations among the commissioners since Friday, the commission reduced the budget for strengthening IEBC's legal framework from Sh2 billion to Sh484 million. In scaling down this vote, the commission removed the allocation for litigation as well as taxes while other expenses have been deferred to the next financial year.
In addition, the projections for voter education have been reduced from Sh2 billion to Sh1.6 billion. But IEBC is not budging on the budget for electronic voter registration system, ballot boxes, poll books, electronic voter transmission system and purchase of motor vehicles. The Sh5 billion budget for presidential run-off stands as is
In addition, Oswago said the commission's decision to operate 45,000 polling stations would not be changed. Treasury has insisted on 23,000 polling stations, same as the ones used by the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya. "As of now, we have a register of 12.4 million registered voters but we intend to register 18 million who will be eligible to vote in the next elections," said Oswago.
IEBC is projecting the voter turnout at 87.5 per cent of the 18 million voters, which comes to 15.75 million voters. "If every stream has 350 voters, you will end up with 45,000 polling stations," he added. In the revised budget, Sh23 billion will go into funding the elections locally, Sh127 million will go into funding voting by Kenyans in the diaspora and Sh613 million will go into settling the per diems of the security personnel that will be deployed across the country. IEBC has indicated that it will hire 100,000 security officers for the elections at Sh1000 per officer per day for the duration of the elections.
IEBC has also requested from treasury Sh7.8 billion to procure electronic voter registration, identification and results transmission systems, ballot boxes, vehicles and generators. "These are items of a one-off nature of capital expenditure. We want to ask treasury to give us the opportunity to meet the expectation of Kenyans," Oswago added.
But the MPs seemed unconvinced and questioned a number of items in the budget. Nominated MP George Nyamweya wondered why the commission needed a voter register and a poll book when both could serve the same purpose. But Commissioner Yusuf Nzibo said the two serve different purposes. While the register is kept at the headquarters, the poll book will replace the infamous black book, ensuring security where only registered voters will participate. The poll book, Nzibo added, would ensure that no individual votes more than once.
Chepalungu MP Isaac Rutto while supporting the inclusion of the electronic voter platforms to eradicate rigging however asked the commission to come up with cost saving measures especially cutting down further on the per diems to its personnel. "There is no need to pay extra cash for a job I would ordinarily do," the Chepalungu MP said, and recommended that IEBC liaises with the Directorate of Personnel Management to guide them on payment of per diems. "We understand that democracy is expensive but we have to be frugal. You have not carried us on board because you have heard our sentiments," the committee chairman Njoroge Baiya said.