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Kivuitu points finger at junior poll officers

NAIROBI, August 20 – The Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) Chairman Samuel Kivuitu has maintained that he and fellow commissioners were not party to any election malpractices at the tallying of last year’s Presidential votes.

Appearing at the Independent Review Commission (IREC) for the second day on Wednesday, Kivuitu said that the commissioners played their part ‘to the letter’.

He dismissed claims by the Orange Democratic Party (ODM), a section of the civil society and observers that the Commission rigged last year’s election in favour of President Mwai Kibaki.

Kivuitu however told the Kriegler Commission that he could not conclusively clear senior election officials in the field and tallying officers at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) of wrongdoing.

“If anybody was manipulating the results to favour Kibaki and other candidates I do not know," Kivuitu told the Commission.

“The only thing I know is that the trend of the behaviour of polling officers vis-à-vis either tribalism or the origin of the candidate, we have a problem in getting impartiality.” 

A verification exercise carried out by the Commission, party agents and observers on the night of December 29 revealed that close to 50 constituencies had their votes bloated.

Kivuitu had on Monday admitted that an internal audit had also revealed gross arithmetic errors in the tabulation of results in the forms 16A and inconsistency in the different forms.

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He noted that the revelations were a clear indication that the Presiding Officers and the Returning Officers could have participated in the anomalies.

The electoral boss nevertheless insisted that according to the audit, the anomaly discovered in the forms would not have made a difference. The internal audit revealed that ODM was denied 8,700 votes, ODM-Kenya 29,093 and PNU 21,473 votes in the final tally.

Kivuitu further insisted that all forms were received before the final tally and the announcement, contrary to reports by the European Union and an observer, Koki Muli that some of the forms were missing during the final count.

“There were some returning officers who had left their forms and those had to be flown back to get them, and later I was told all had been received so I had to tabulate the results,” he expressed.

Kivuitu also disclosed that he at one time considered postponing the announcement of the results but the tension in the country prompted him otherwise.

"It weighed in my mind that we could postpone announcement of results, but postpone and do what?" Kivuitu posed.

He dismissed those who linked the announcement of the results to the post election violence, noting that it was being used as an excuse by those behind the violence.

Kivuitu was being cross-examined by lawyers and commissioners after handing in his evidence on Monday.

ECK Commissioner Jack Tumwa, who was in charge of operations during the elections, will be next on the dock.

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IREC is mandated to come up with the necessary legal and institutional reforms to prevent a recurrence of the flawed elections. Already it has held public hearings and a series of technical workshops on various aspects of the electoral process. It is expected to hand over its report in September.

In his recommendation to IREC, Kivuitu proposed that the commissioners be de-linked from the conduct of elections and instead an officer in charge of elections be appointed and given security of tenure, to make him independent of the commissioners.

Kivuitu, who wants the commissioners to be limited to policy formulation, proposed that clarity in their responsibilities and those of other officers at the commission be entrenched in the constitution.

As it is now, the law refers to the ECK as a whole and fails to specify the functions of particular officials.

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