NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 5 – The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will conduct nationwide voter registration starting November this year.
The commission’s CEO Ezra Chiloba says they will kick off the exercise early to ensure there is sufficient time to compile the register and minimise errors as those witnessed in the last General Election.
“We are getting into voter registration phase and we will be taking a nationwide voter registration exercise in November and December,” said Chiloba.
While appearing before Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee to respond to questions over the procurement of voter registration equipment used in the last election, Chiloba noted that many young people had been left out of the process initially, saying the commission had since learnt from mistakes arising from the 2013 poll.
He said the commission would deploy election clerks who can speak local dialects to ensure every prospective voter gets the message so as to make the exercise successful.
“We said perhaps the best way to attend to this was to use the social capital of the staff where we send them to their county because they can speak the local language and basically understand the terrain to be able to mobilise people to turn up and register,” he added.
He further clarified that staff who will be deployed will be transferred to other areas come the election date to reduce familiarity which has been blamed in some cased for ‘alleged’ tampering of election results.
It was during his appearance that Chiloba also admitted to approving the payment of Sh252 million for the purchase of an extra 4,600 Electronic Voter Identification Devices not approved by the tender committee.
Chiloba noted the mistake but defended himself saying by the time joined the commission, the negotiations were at an advanced stage and already the equipment had been delivered and used by IEBC.
“The irregularity had happened and action taken, but as an accounting officer, you must strengthen your internal mechanism and systems and punish those responsible,” said Chiloba.
He pointed out that the extra EVIDs were needed following an addition of the number of polling stations.
He also indicated that although the initial payment was adjusted from $16 million to $21 million, he only approved payment for $2.5 million and dismissed the rest as the reasons given by the company supplying the equipment were unjustified.
Former CEO James Oswago had initially told the committee that he declined to authorise payment of the monies.
As part of the changes to redeem public confidence, Chiloba said the commission had established an ICT laboratory which will be exploring the current technology, test it and make sure what was procured was effective since in the last election a number of Biometric Voter Registration kits (BVR) and EVIDs failed.
The CEO who has been in office for six months now said he had set the ball rolling and his team was charged and ready to deliver to Kenyans a free, fair and transparent election.
“I came at a time when there was very low morale by the staff following the challenges of the 2013 elections; for me the challenge was to mobilise people towards a common cause,” he said.
He stated that the commission now engages with the staff on a regular basis to understand the challenges they undergo and also to get ideas on how to improve service delivery to the people.
“We have local experts who we want to work with to come up with solution to the technological problems that may arise. We experienced challenges with the system we had, we are since making deliberate steps to ensure this does not happen again,” added the CEO.
Chiloba while responding to a question over why the cost of elections in Kenya was so high said this was determined by the trust of the public.
He attributed the mistrust to social experience over the years saying this was process and mostly common in post conflict countries and would fade with time.
“The higher the level of trust in the systems the lesser the cost. I will not be looking for a ballot paper with a security feature if I trust that if I cast my vote, it will be counted,” said Chiloba.
“Society has to come to terms with time – as you consolidate democracy, the cost elections will go down.”