NAIROBI, August 27 – Five electoral Returning Officers (RO) on Wednesday appeared before the Independent Review Commission investigating last year’s disputed elections, to shed light on tallying anomalies reported in their constituencies.
James Gitahi, who was the in-charge in Kirinyaga Central Constituency, told the Justice Johann Kriegler-led Commission that he declared the wrong parliamentary candidate as a winner and announced a lower count of presidential votes for Mwai Kibaki.
Due to the anomaly, a former MP Japheth Karaba lost to John Ngata. But an IREC audit showed that Ngata actually lost to Karaba by two votes.
A petition filed in court by Karaba was struck out on technical grounds and he was ordered to pay Sh7.2 million as costs.
Gitahi told the Inquiry that after realising the mistake in the presidential tally, he tried to relay the corrected figures to officials at the national tallying centre but they declined to receive it.
“It was an arithmetic error and the reason for this I did not have time to proofread. I am sorry,” he pleaded.
On their part, Kieni Constituency RO John Njuguna and his Masinga counterpart, Stephen Kyalo told the Commission that they unknowingly announced incomplete presidential results.
Njuguna said that clerks who were keying the figures on a computer had missed out results from 22 polling centres.
“After doubting, I had to find out from them, and they told me that only 87 centres had their data captured out of 109,” Njuguna said.
Kyalo explained to IREC that an aspirant had disrupted the tallying process, which resulted to the loss of some records for the presidential tallies.
“In the confusion we did not pick all the form 17A papers; we went through with two pages of the results,” Kyalo revealed.
Nicholas Okwemwa failed to explain why Mbita Constituency recorded an unusual voter turnout, with 10 stations recording 100 percent, 39 with 99, while 23 had a 98 percent turnout.
However Molo Constituency RO, Laban Korellach, cleared his name by saying that he announced partial results due to pressure from party agents and supporters. He said these figures were mistaken to be the final tallies by European Union observers and ODM agents.
He was however taken to task by lead counsel Cecil Miller to explain whether he communicated partial results to the national tallying centre. But the RO faulted the EU and ODM for failing to clarify with him on the finality of the results.
Miller: Would you at the time of partial announcement communicate them to Nairobi?
Korellach: I would never do that. I made it clear that we were not through with the process. It was upon whatever stakeholders to seek clarification.
Molo’s results were at the centre of controversy over the re-election of President Mwai Kibaki.
All the electoral officers were in agreement that under the pressure and fatigue they were vulnerable to making errors. They proposed that either the three different elections of Presidential, Parliamentary and Civic be held separately or separate ROs be recruited to handle them, to reduce fatigue.
In addition they requested that they be oriented properly on the use of computers and the same be availed to them.