NAIROBI, August 18 – The Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) Chairman Samuel Kivuitu Monday admitted that some errors were reported in the tallying of votes in various constituencies during last year’s general election.
Appearing before the Independent Review Commission (IREC) probing the 2007 disputed poll results, Kivuitu said that an audit carried out by his officers revealed that there were discrepancies in some of the figures presented by returning officers.
He was responding to a question by Assisting Counsel Yohane Masara, who wanted to know whether figures in forms 16A, 17A and 16 matched.
“There were a number of constituencies where they differ; the explanation of course also differs; but they cover the entire country,” he stated.
Kivuitu also confessed that some results were relayed to the tallying centre incomplete. He faulted officers at the tallying centre in Nairobi for pressurising the officers on the ground.
“One of the complaints you find all over is the pressure they got from officers here to release whatever they had,” Kivuitu said.
He however defended ECK saying the officers had been adequately trained and instructed to only rely on complete results.
The Chairman added that he too couldn’t understand why results in certain areas were delayed but stated that reasons given by the returning officers like the weather and lack of network coverage were hard to verify.
He said that a proposal to use the electronic transfer of results from the constituencies to the tally centre in Nairobi was shelved due to lack of funds, and inadequate time to train his officers.
The enormous power vested on the polling officers and their independence came under scrutiny, but Kivuitu made no comments about it.
He admitted that there was a possibility that polling clerks connived with party agents in the varying strongholds to manipulate the results, but nevertheless stated that he had advised the observers to be keen in such areas.
The (ECK) chair, who was the first witness to be cross examined under oath at the Justice Johann Kriegler led commission, admitted that a perception on lack of transparency in the appointment of Commissioners wounded the credibility of the Commission.
He further noted that the country’s electoral process has many loop holes but heaped blame on politicians saying that they had frustrated numerous efforts to institute major reforms.
“Political leaders started saying, tell us where these constituencies will be created so that we will know whether we will gain,” he relayed.
In 2006, he said, ECK had proposed to increase the number of constituencies by 30-40 and another ten nominated MPs in a bid to ensure equitable representation. They had also wanted to set clear rules for the nominations for special seats.
Political parties he accused are owned by specific individuals who no longer adhere to the laid down rules for candidate nominations and the special seats.
He said ECK’s efforts to have continuous civic education and registration of voters had been undermined by inadequate funds.
“What happens is that immediately after the general elections there is a tendency to just forget it and when you ask for the money you are told that that is a small problem, which will be dealt with later,” Kivuitu exacted.
The Chairman also faulted the slow pace of the issuance of identity cards in the country, which he blamed for the high number of unregistered voters.
IREC was appointed under the mandate of the African Panel of Eminent Persons in March and tasked with the responsibility of coming up with the necessary legal and constitutional reforms for the country’s electoral process.
It has already held public hearings across the country and technical workshops on various matters concerning the electoral process.
Its mandate expires next month and Kriegler has promised that they will be through by then. President Mwai Kibaki has assured immediate implementation of the report.