NAIROBI, Kenya Aug 4 – An official suspended from the Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) over an alleged smear campaign targeting commissioners has hit back, insisting that the chairman must address the real issues and stop running away from reality.
Roy Allan Otieno Odongo, who was suspended from his job as a Personal Assistant to the Chief Electoral Officer, says in a letter to IIEC chairman Isaack Hassan that issues raised in a newspaper article he is accused of engineering are critical and should be tackled.
Mr Odongo is accused of peddling a number of articles published in The Star newspaper, including a recent one authored on August 2 titled “Tribalism, Nepotism are rife at IIEC” authored by a Mr Gikonyo Boaz.
While Mr Odongo denies authoring or working with authors of the said article(s), he maintains the issues raised are deep-seated and need to be addressed urgently.
“I find the allegation that I communicated to the media on matters regarding the commission’s internal affairs rather curious and out of place because in my opinion nothing appearing in the said article published in the Star qualifies to be internal affairs of IIEC or any other public body for that matter,” he said in a response letter suspending him.
“The issues raised in the article are fundamental issues regarding governance, ethics, integrity, accountability and the rule of law. ”
On Wednesday, Mr Hassan addressed a news conference where he accused Mr Odongo of spearheading a well orchestrated smear campaign targeting commissioners after the articles were found on his laptop.
During the press briefing, Mr Hassan said “Some of the articles (found on Mr Odongo’s laptop) are word for word of what has been printed in a local newspaper’s opinion pages under a different by-line. The other articles were due to be released in subsequent publications.”
He questioned the timing of the articles which question his credibility and suitability and that of other commissioners said to be eyeing positions in the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) whose mandate will be expanded in line with the new constitution.
But in his response, Mr Odongo – who as the PA to Chief Electoral Officer James Oswago -acknowledged having an article on his laptop but denied authoring it.
“I am not the source of the said article published by the Star Newspaper. A word document titled Seven Facts You Did Not Know About IIEC and which was found in my office laptop was given to me together with other materials from another source,” he said in his strongly-worded response letter to the commission chairman.
“Please note that the said documents alleged to have been found in my laptop are common documents circulating around in the media houses and a section of the civil society,” he added and sought to clarify that “For them to be found in my laptop is not a matter of conjecture but a matter of me being in possession of information which a whole lot of other people already know and have including yourself and the Commissioners.”
He adds: “I have never communicated with any media house on any issue regarding the commission and the Star Newspaper is no exception.”
Mr Odongo has also taken issue with the procedure followed in suspending him, saying due legal process was flouted.
“I find my suspension without pay to be completely unprocedural, conceived in haste and great prejudice. Due procedure demands that a show course why letter be issued to me first with the express knowledge and permission of my immediate supervisor in this case the Chief Electoral Officer,” he protested quoting a clause passed by the commission’s plenary in its last session which “decreed that no Personal Assistant in the Commission should be moved, transferred or otherwise interfered with without the approval of the person he/she is assigned to. It beats reason why this directive was ignored in my case.”
Mr Odongo made it clear that that his immediate boss had nothing to do with the “coincidence of my association with the said article which are not in any way part of my relationship with the CEO/Commission Secretary as his Personal Assistant nor have I ever received any instructions from him to act in any way that would have similar results or effects.”
Some of the issues raised in the articles in question include tribalism, nepotism and corruption at the commission where commissioners including Mr Hassan are accused of hiring electoral coordinators and other officials who are their relatives or friends.
These are the issues Mr Oswago’s PA maintains are not internal matters and need to be addressed immediately.
Reports indicate that Mr Oswago was due in the country from Manila, Philippines later on Thursday and was scheduled to address a press conference at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.