, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 30 – The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairman Wafula Chebukati and his team failed to appear before a parliamentary committee Thursday to answer MPs’ questions regarding the current stalemate at the polls body.
Chebukati and commissioners Abdi Guliye and Boya Molu were invited by the National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee a week ago to give an update on the current status of the commission.
While acknowledging receipt of the electoral body’s apology letter, Committee Chairman William Cheptumo (Baringo North) said that the commissioners were out of the country in Rwanda for official duties.
“Due to prior scheduled and confirmed engagements with the African Union and the Inter-governmental Authority on Development, the commissioners will not be able to attend as they are in Rwanda to observe the Rwanda parliamentary elections,” said Chebukati.
Cheptumo who reprimanded Chebukati for handling the invite casually, told journalists that the polls chief had requested the committee to have the meeting postponed to next Thursday.
Among the issues that were to dominate Thursday’s agenda was the return of three commissioners (Consolata Maina, Paul Kurgat and Margret Mwachanya) who resigned and now want their positions back but Chebukati insists they are strangers to the commission.
The dramatic return of the three commissioners to the poll agency headquarters at Anniversary Towers took place on Monday but they were denied access to their former offices.
In affirming his position, Chebukati said he is relying on a High Court order that ruled the electoral body is properly constituted, declared their resignation procedural and called for their replacement.
The three commissioners resigned on April 16 citing disunity within the commission and castigated Chebukati for not providing leadership.
The impasse at the electoral agency that has since seen four commissioners resign with former commissioner Roselyne Akombe being the first to throw in the towel continues to be a major concern to Kenyans with Cheptumo now worried that the commission might not effectively conduct the boundary review set for a year’s time.
Besides the issue of boundary review, Cheptumo said that there are other weighty issues like that of the commission not being properly constituted that urgently needs to be addressed before the next elections in 2022.
The issue of reviewing electoral laws before 2022 is also another key area of concern that Cheptumo said is very imperative for the committee to have a session with Chebukati.
In a bid to avert future crisis at the poll agency especially that which might be prompted by resignation of a commissioner, Cheptumo said that the committee is in the process of preparing a legislative proposal that will aid in the formation of a selection panel that will appoint new commissioners in the event of a vacancy away from the other procedure where the President is the only appointing authority.
“As a commission, we are looking at other options on how the commissioners can be appointed if there is a vacuum,” he said.
Once a member resigns, the President is expected to publish a notice of vacancy in the gazette upon receiving notice of resignation within seven days.
The declaration of vacancy by the President precipitates a recruitment process through formulation of a selection panel by the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee of the National Assembly.
Afterward, they are expected to receive applications, memoranda from the public on their suitability and qualifications, vet and write a report on the nominee(s) through the relevant House Committee which is subject to adoption or rejection in the House plenary.
Chebukati in a raft of recommendations in a previous session with the Constitution Implementation and Oversight Committee proposed the selection panel to IEBC be a Standing House Committee to immediately swing into action to recruit members to the Commission as soon as a vacancy arises.
The Commission is grappling with quorum glitches occasioned by the resignation of four commissioners rendering the electoral agency incapacitated to transact any business from resolutions adopted in the plenary chaired by Chebukati.