20 August 2018

Kenya: IEBC in Ambitious Reforms Plan Ahead of 2022

Emboldened by a High Court decision that it was properly constituted even with the exit of four of the seven commissioners, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has rolled out an ambitious plan to reform the agency.

Top on IEBC's list is to move out of Anniversary Towers, the city centre building owned by Kenya Re that has been the commission's home for over a decade.

The commission spends Sh100 million a year on rent at the premises -- a sum that the IEBC said excludes costs incurred in hiring venues for meetings, and for conducting trainings.

DISRUPTIONS

"The proposed acquisition of the commission's own premises will not only cut the high recurrent costs of office space rent, but also the costs for hiring other venues for trainings, meetings with stakeholders and storage," IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati said in a press statement.

Further, Mr Chebukati said, the movement of the commission headquarters out of the central business district "will see minimal disruptions to other activities in the CBD in the event of any picketing and demonstrations."

Each time there have been grievances against the IEBC, demonstrations against the commission have brought business to a standstill -- and loss of millions of shillings -- at the city centre. Mr Chebukati did not give a timeline on when the relocation is expected to start, but sources indicated that the plan could start as soon as July next year.

MANDATE

The IEBC chairman said the High Court decision on the quorum of the commission, rendered on Friday last week, had given them the mandate to hold yesterday's by-election in Baringo South, and that of the Migori senatorial seat in October.

"It is our hope that this considered judgment settles the concerns on the composition and constitution of the Commission vis-à-vis our ability to legally deliver on our mandate," Mr Chebukati argued.

The case in the High Court questioning the legality of the commission was lodged following the surprise resignations of commissioners Connie Nkatha, Paul Kurgat, and Margaret Mwachanya in April, as well as that of Dr Roselyne Akombe in October 2017.

Mr Chebukati has been left with only commissioners Abdi Guliye, and Boya Molu.

DELIBERATIONS

Besides relocating its headquarters, the IEBC also plans the public vetting of all senior staff expected to start soon, the restructuring of the agency structure to avoid duplication of roles, and an attempt to make procurement processes more transparent.

And in an attempt to curb embarrassing cases of leaked memos and commissioners disputing his stand in public, Mr Chebukati has proposed that the commission adopts a Hansard record for plenary meetings.

"Using a Hansard record will guarantee the integrity of contributions and deliberations, putting an end to the debates and misinformation that have affected the commission meetings and decision making process," Mr Chebukati explained.

EVALUATION

The Hansard, he said, will be available to all stakeholders, and will then be cascaded to plenary committees, and management meetings.

On the restructuring of the commission, Mr Chebukati said the IEBC had approved a report on what needs to be done, and will soon hire a human resources firm to guide the process. He assured staff of a fair process.

The commission said it had started a post-election evaluation, with a national stakeholders forum slated for August 28-August 30.

REGISTRATION

At the same time, the IEBC has lifted its 15-month suspension of continuous voter registration, and will next month kick out another drive targeting to hit the 20 million mark by June 2019.

Mr Chebukati said the commission expects to increase the number of voters by at least 3 per cent from the current 19.6 million voters enrolled as at 2017 in the current certified register of voters to 20.1 million by June 2019. The continuous registration of voters was suspended on March 7, 2017, five months to the 2017 General Election, and was rescheduled to reopen on September 7, 2017.

However, the period of the suspension was extended to November 8, 2017 following the Supreme Court's landmark decision to overturn the presidential election results, and the rescheduling of the repeat poll to October 26.

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