Kenya referendum back on course

July 8, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 8 -The government has now opted to re-allocate money already set aside for other purposes to finance a Sh2 billion gap in the August 4 referendum.

A meeting between officials from the Treasury, the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC), the Ministry of Justice and the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs agreed that the referendum must be given priority over other projects.

The meeting resolved that technocrats from the Treasury, the Justice Ministry and the IIEC would hold a session later on Thursday to finalise details of the total amount to be made available and where to get it.

"We got an absolute undertaking that the August 4 referendum will take place and the resources will be available," said the PSC Chairman Abdikadir Mohammed.

Last week, the IIEC indicated that the vote was in jeopardy after the Finance Ministry allocated only Sh2.6 billion out of the Sh4.6 billion needed to effectively conduct the referendum. The committee convened the meeting to arbitrate the issue and avert a crisis.

"Nobody should worry.  We have agreed that whatever is required is going to be availed," said Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo after the meeting.

Finance Permanent Secretary Joseph Kinyua led other senior officials from the Treasury for the one hour crisis meeting.

It appeared like the Finance Ministry had resolved prior to the meeting to release the money. Speaking separately at the Ministry headquarters as the meeting progressed, Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta said "we will ensure that the referendum is facilitated fully."

"The IIEC will be well funded to ensure we have a successful referendum," he assured.

The Justice Minister said thanks to the new system of budget scrutiny, Parliamentary committees now have more say on budgetary allocations.

"Parliament now plays a key role in pointing out where the key priorities are and that has happened this morning. The Treasury has accepted that without governance, Vision 2030 is just a pipe dream," he said.
Besides the IIEC crisis, the meeting also discussed the underfunding of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission.  Mr Mohammed said that the meeting had appreciated that the administration of justice is underfunded compared to other sectors like roads and education.

"The aim was to see how these critical institutions get the funding they require," said the Mandera Central MP.  The critical issue is that the Treasury has competing interest it has to deal with. We have a limited resource basket to against a number of reform commissions."

The IIEC has indicated it has already procured ballot papers and the new transparent ballot boxes. It however needs to employ close to 200,000 temporary workers and security officers to assist in the referendum.

The commission also has a huge budget for other logistics, voter education and publicity in readiness for the exercise and high transport expenses.


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