, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 7 – Twenty-three minutes are a precious many when you’re the man 46 million Kenyans are holding responsible for the operational success of their political expression – in a month’s time.
Still, it’s time the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chief Executive Ezra Chiloba took to sit down with Capital FM News’ Associate Editor Olive Burrows and address just the latest thorn in the Commission’s side, disgruntlement over the voters register.
A register which Chiloba’s Chairman Wafula Chebukati declared closed to amendments on Thursday to allow the commission ready itself for the August 8 General Election.
Only a few hours earlier, the official opposition had agitated for a special sitting of parliament to debate what could be well above 950,000 deceased persons who remain listed despite an audit conducted by the firm KPMG.
“We never received that figure from the civil registry of deaths. That figure is the results of the statistics analysis which KPMG used. They said going by the statistics of the number of people who die every day so many from road accidents, so many from malaria, it’s possible that you’d have one million dead people from 2012,” was Chebukati’s response on Thursday.
In total, for the purposes of the register audit – Commissioner Roselyn Akombe explained – KPMG received 435,000 names of persons who’d attained the age of majority and had been reported dead from 2012 up until the time the records were requested.
Of the 435,000, those whose records included their ID numbers and were found on the voters register were about, she said, 92,000.
That figure was further thinned down to 88,000 on account of, as Akombe explained it, “there are cases of people who went to report that my loved one has died but instead of them taking down the records of my loved one, they’d take down my ID number and my name and put it in the system. We even checked through our system and found that about seven of those were registered candidates.”
So yes, Chiloba acquiesced; there very well may be a number of deceased persons that remain listed on the voters register.
“It’s not lost on us that within the 19.6 million we could be having people who are deceased,” he said.
It did not however mean, he contended, that the register is anything less than credible and sought to make clear that it was by no means on account of any failure by the Commission. “It is not our duty to collect that information,” he said before echoing his Chairman who on Thursday lamented that, “our record of deaths in the country is very poor. That’s the fact. Going forward as a country we need to really enhance the civil registry.”
“KPMG cannot certify deceased persons, there’s only one entity that does that in government and that is the registrar of births and death,” Chiloba said. And in defence of their choice of KPMG to carry out the audit: “There’s no specific firm out there that is specialised in auditing the register. They’ll run out of business before long because it’s not a normal exercise.”
And there were of course those images doing the rounds on social media showing the SMS voter registration verification portal to have generated results for what should be invalid queries such as for ID number ‘0’, ‘003’ or ‘006’.
In response to which Chiloba took out his phone, sent in the queries to 70000 and received in return the message: “Kindly reply with a valid ID/Passport number.”
“We had no reason to suspend the SMS service,” was his follow-up.
And in a similar as simple a manner, he sought to explain the zoning of voters’ biometric data into 13 regions. “A kit cannot carry images, and this is an SD card, that is 10 finger prints plus portrait of 19.6 million people. But it will contain the 19 million voters data in terms of text, like an Excel sheet.”
All taken into account, he said, Kenyans should nurse no doubts as to the credibility of their voters register. “There is only one register, be it in soft or hard copy and as much as we could be having deceased persons on the register, they will not be allowed to vote because we have a proper mechanism to prevent that from happening. Our register is one of the best in the world, it is biometric based.”