IEBC opens voluntary exit talks with Joint Select Committee

August 2, 2016 11:40 pm
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The commissioners will continue with the submissions on Wednesday/FILE
The commissioners will continue with the submissions on Wednesday/FILE

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 2 – It is now emerging that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairman and Commissioners are ready to exit office voluntarily after they implored the Joint Parliamentary Select Committee probing allegations against them to guarantee a send off package and immunity from prosecution.

This formed part of a closed door meeting the two groups held on Tuesday morning which led to delay of the committee’s sitting that was scheduled to kick off at 11am.

Overview
  • This formed part of a closed door meeting the two groups held on Tuesday morning which led to delay of the committee’s sitting that was scheduled to kick off at 11am.
  • Both the committee members and the commissioners did not show up at the County Hall mini-chamber, the venue of the meeting, with only a number of Parliamentary and Commission secretariat staff present.
  • The thinking behind pushing a negotiated exit comes after Attorney General Githu Muigai told the Joint House Committee that if the current IEBC team is sent home, it would require around 24 months to train the new officials in readiness for the 2017 General Election.

Both the committee members and the commissioners did not show up at the County Hall’s mini-chamber, the venue of the meeting, with only a number of Parliamentary and Commission secretariat staff present.

The thinking behind pushing a negotiated exit comes after Attorney General Githu Muigai told the Joint House Committee that if the current IEBC team is sent home, it would require around 24 months to train the new officials in readiness for the 2017 General Election.

The AG’s assessment is that the next General Election slated for August 2017 would have to be postponed until mid-2018 consequently extending President Uhuru Kenyatta’s term in office.

The Jubilee and CORD Coalitions and various independent commissions such as the National Gender and Equality Commission, Commission on Administrative Justice among others told the Joint House Select Committee that the IEBC Commissioners should exit office through a negotiated settlement.

They argued that reconstitution of the IEBC would ensure the country will have smooth elections next year.

Reports of a similar pact came to the fore last month when the poll agency appeared before the National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee where IEBC Chairman Isaack Hassan asked for a closed door session to discuss the sendoff package at a time when the committee was handling a petition seeking removal of IEBC Commissioners from office for incompetence and lack of integrity.

The commissioners will continue with the submissions on Wednesday after MPs sought to know the position of the Hassan-led commission following reports that four of the Commissioners had secretly written to President Uhuru Kenyatta indicating willingness to resign following sustained public agitation led by the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD).

On Tuesday, both groups emerged at about 1pm, first being the IEBC Commissioners, who strolled into the Chamber and would constantly be seen holding conversations in small groups before the committee members walked in led by their Co-Chairman Siaya Senator James Orengo and Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi.

In his opening remarks before calling the meeting to order, Orengo apologised that the formal session was starting rather late in the day “but I am sure everybody involved understands.”

Meanwhile in their presentation during Tuesday’s sitting, the IEBC opposed a proposal to create a new voter register ahead of the August 2017 General Election, saying the process is costly and time consuming.

Hassan told the Joint Parliamentary Select Committee that there is need to interrogate the reason behind the lobbying.

“If this committee recommends that we go for a fresh voter register that will set us many months back again and is going to have a serious knock-on effect on the election calendar and timetable, we will have to interrogate the reasons why we want a fresh voter register and see whether those concerns which are being raised can be addressed… we should look at how we can avoid that,” Hassan said even as he announced plans to launch the inspection of the voters’ register next month..

“I was the Chairman of the IIEC, immediately when we came to office we were asked by Parliament to set aside the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) voter register and begin a fresh register and we got 12.3 million voters. In 2011, when IEBC was established again the new Constitution required we collect a new voter register, so IIEC register had to be kicked aside again. Surely, Mr Chairman, we need to look at why we are doing this, let’s see whether we can update… whether we can clean, whether we can address the concern of the stakeholders and political players, because you will have to think of the cost implication and the time implication,” he said.

At the same time the IEBC has also dismissed a proposal by the National Treasury and the Kenya National Registration for it to adapt the Integrated Public Registration System which would see a Kenyan adult use either his national identification card to vote.

“It may be very appealing and very fanciful and so I want to disabuse you from any appealing by the National Registration Bureau that they can do this work. Even now they have been unable to integrate our own documentation, we still have more than six documents in our wallets; whether it’s the Driving License, the Kenya Revenue Authority PIN, National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) Card; let them first start with that one, before they come to the Voter Register,” Hassan asserted.

The NRB had told the committee that some 9.2 million Kenyan adults have been issued with their National ID Cards but have not yet registered as voters.

The IEBC fell short of its national target of registering four million new voters in its first phase of voter registration exercise held in February after it managed to register only 1,428,056 voters.

The current voters’ register has 14 million voters.

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