NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – The Chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Issack Hassan says he is ready to conduct the 2017 General Election, after he was cleared by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) over the Chickengate scandal.
In an interview with Capital FM News on Wednesday, Hassan also stated rejection of a petition seeking their removal from office by the National Assembly’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) meant they could now focus on providing Kenyans with free, fair and credible elections next year.
“I am very relieved with the report by EACC. I have always maintained my innocence and I was always concerned that EACC may be influenced by the unfair negative coverage which was used to try me in the court of public opinion,” he stated.
“But I am very happy that the investigators were professional. They did a very professional job looking at the evidence and they took our statements properly.”
He explained that the allegations had made it difficult for them to effectively discharge their duties and pointed out that they can now continue with their work unhindered.
“This has been a very difficult time for us a commission. Our staff have been very demoralised; these have been trying moments and I want to encourage them to get back to work, refocus and prepare for the elections,” he stated.
“I want to ask Kenyans to support the staff at the commission. I think the commission needs the support of everybody, all the players and stakeholders. We will do everything we can to work with them, to listen to them and ensure we have a good election next year.”
He indicated that the allegations had further tarnished the image of IEBC but pointed out the need for Kenyans to now move forward and let the commission do its work.
“The secretariat at the commission have always been preparing for the elections. This is a matter which has been hanging over our heads for some time and they have almost distracted our attention from the core work of the commission but I think in terms of preparations for the elections, we are going on very well,” he stated.
“The commission is very prepared for the elections and I hope that we can begin and refocus on this job of preparing for the elections.”
The probe by JLAC followed a petition by a Bungoma resident who wanted IEBC Commissioners fired on grounds of incompetence and lack of integrity.
“As a lawyer, I understand that those who have been recommended for prosecution are still innocent until they are proven guilty by a court of law. I feel vindicated and relieved both by the report of the EACC and by the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee which also tabled its report yesterday,” Hassan indicated.
“As a commission we are also very happy that the committee listened to us… they read our defence and they saw the case for what it was.”
He urged Opposition leaders who had been holding demonstrations seeking the removal of the commissioners from office to always observe the rule of law as the truth will always reign.
“My appeal to them is to respect the rule of law and rights of individuals and not to condemn people unheard and resort to mob lynching. That is what I had been subjected to. I feel that I have gone through public trial very unfairly and I hope that they will not do that to any other public officer,” he said.
While commenting on EACC recommendations against former IEBC Chief Executive Officer James Oswago in the Chickengate scandal, Hassan stated that he was not responsible for any of his actions as he held a different docket.
“In terms of accountability, responsibility and culpability you must understand that there is a law which sets up the commission and this law allocates responsibility between the chairman and the commissioners and the CEO and secretariat. So when it comes to matters of accounting, procurement and issues to do with financial management, those are powers given by law to the Chief Executive Officer of the Commission,” he said.
He maintained that the commissioners only dealt with policy issues and matters to do with procurement and finances were left to the CEO and secretariat.
“The chairperson and commissioners have no role to play in those procurement and financial accounting matters. Each person will be asked to respond to those responsibilities. Mine were policy issues, election matters, the results announcement of the President and the overall oversight of the commission. But I also know that every accounting officer has a responsibility to Parliament in terms of funds for each commission,” he said.