On Monday, we were exactly one year to 8th August 2017, the date of the next General Election. It will be Kenya’s 25th General Election in the last 96 years but the second under the 2010 Constitution. Somewhat, elections are now part of our political culture since colonial days.
Even then, every other election presents an opportunity for us to improve on their quality. This is a distinguishing factor between a country making democratic progress and one that is not.
Every effort undertaken by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in the last one year has been, for all intent and purposes, to make the management of elections in Kenya much better. That is why, in January this year, we shared with all stakeholders a comprehensive roadmap towards free and fair 2017 General Election. Mr Henry Rotich, the National Treasury Cabinet Secretary, recently acknowledged that unlike before, the IEBC has been able to plan properly. It is also on the same basis that development partners continue to invest in the Commission’s programmes.
On managing 2017 elections, significant progress has been made in some areas while more efforts need to undertaken in others. For instance, the Commission intends to have eight million additional voters included in the voter register by 2017.
So far, we have 1.6 million voters that will soon be included in the register following the registration undertaken in the first half of this year. The new voters will be included after the inspection of voter register planned for September this year takes place. The next mass voter registration is expected to start towards the end of the year. The idea is to ensure that every eligible Kenyan is given an opportunity to register as a voter and to participate effectively in the coming elections.
The Commission submitted a number of electoral law reforms to the National Assembly early in the year. The Elections Act (Amendment) Bill now at the Second Reading, contains vital proposals that if enacted will improve the manner in which the Commission discharges its mandate.
For example, the Commission has proposed to close voter registration 90 days before the election and increase the period for inspection to 30 days from the current 14 days. Most importantly, it has been proposed that the voter register is published and made available to the public at least 30 days before the elections.
Further, the Commission has proposed amendments to increase the period for submission of political party constitutions and nomination rules and for submission of party membership lists to the Commission to 180 days and 120 days respectively. Timely enactment of these amendments will give the Commission and all interested parties ample time to implement.
After establishing that the current Electronic Voter Identification Devices (EVIDs) are not-fit-for-purpose for the 2017 General Election, the Commission is in the process of replacing them before the end of this year. Timely acquisition of EVID will allow for adequate for testing and simulations before the elections.
The Results Transmission System (RTS) was designed to provide an efficient and faster module for real time transmission of provisional results from the polling stations to the tallying centre. The Commission is now in the process of upgrading the system to ensure a more effective, efficient and reliable system is in place in good time before the elections.
Unlike 2013, the Commission has developed a draft comprehensive Elections Results Management Framework. The framework provides the Commission and all stakeholders a process-based understanding of DO’s and DON’Ts of elections results management. The framework also defines the role of technology. In addition, it outlines the role of party agents, observers and media at different results processing stages as part of enhancing transparency and openness. The draft framework will be subjected to public participation at the end of this month.
On institutional transformation, the Commission is concerned about systems, processes, infrastructure and human resource capacity. So far, we have carried out a partial restructuring of the secretariat and recruited over 30 new officers. A new performance management system is now developed and operationalised. With support from development partners, we are working on a new organization structure that will ensure the Commission is efficient.
Unbeknown to many, the IEBC has continued to address legacy issues. In particular, the Commission incurred about Sh4 billion pending bills from the 2013 General Election because of the then weaknesses in the financial management systems for a young institution like IEBC. Consequently, the Commission has now created a new directorate solely responsible for procurement and supply chain functions, recruited new procurement staff, strengthening systems and procedures in the Finance department, and boosted the capacity of its internal audit function. Our long-term goal is to go through the process of institutional transformation that will make IEBC an effective and respected corporate body in the provision of electoral services.
In the end, IEBC must remain steadfast in the execution of its mandate. The implementation of the elections operations plan, which has been hailed by many stakeholders, is one way of ensuring that we are making progress in building a better democracy.
(Chiloba is the Commission Secretary/CEO of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission – EChiloba@IEBC.OR.KE)