NAIROBI, Kenya October 24 – The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has termed as unfortunate and ill-founded a proposal by Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) task force to reconstitute the electoral commission in order to provide a clean slate ahead of 2022 General Elections.
IEBC Chairperson Wafula Chebukati on Friday said the recommendation was part of an onslaught against the commission to incite the public into mob-lynching the poll agency.
“The criminality and unsuitability to hold office narrative driven by certain members of the political class is meant to incite the members of the public with the intention of mob-lynching the Commission and its staff, and also to create justification for the ‘clean-slate’ recommendation in the BBI Report,” he said in a statement emailed to newsrooms.
Chebukati said the report claws back on the gains made over the years on electoral management in Kenya and warned that such campaigns weaken and interfere with the independence of the Commission.
“The source of the current attacks on the Commission is founded on the outcome of one Supreme Court Presidential Petition No. 1 of 2017 and disregards all the other petitions where about 95 per cent of the 301 election petitions were dismissed and the election results declared by IEBC upheld by the various courts, including the consolidated Supreme Court Presidential Petition No. 2 & 4 of 2017.”
“This consistent criminality allegations and attacks against the Commission are unfortunate and ill-founded,” he added.
Chebukati said the commission is suitable to conduct elections further citing previous Supreme Court rulings which absolved and vindicated it in respect to allegations of electoral interference and criminal culpability.
In the proposals by the BBI Steering Committee led by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji, IEBC’s management structure will be reconstituted with the recruitment of a new Chairperson, new commissioners and a freshly vetted Secretariat ahead of the next General Election.
In an amendment to the proposed IEBC Act, the Taskforce states that vacant positions in the membership of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission shall be filled within sixty days of the commencement of the Act.
Unlike in the past where the Secretariat evaded scrutiny, this time the Haji-led team says all current senior IEBC officers should be vetted by a panel to be constituted by the President.
Under the new recommendations, the Chairperson of the vetting panel shall be a person qualified to be a Supreme Court Judge.
“Despite Article 251 of the Constitution, within thirty days from the commencement of this Act, the members of the IEBC who were in office on the commencement date shall be vetted to determine their suitability to continue serving in accordance with the values set out in Articles 10 and Chapter Six,” the BBI task force stated in its report.
The membership of the selection panel shall consist of two members nominated by political parties, one from the Majority Party and one from the Minority Party, represented in the National Assembly; and two members nominated by a joint forum representing religious organizations while the Public Service Commission shall provide secretariat services and facilities required by the vetting panel in the performance of its functions.
“The vetting panel shall consider information gathered in the course of personal interviews, a summary of the complaints, if any, from the public against the members, as well as their records.”
The vetting panel shall within fourteen days of finalizing the vetting, inform the concerned member, in writing, of the outcome of the vetting and be dissolved upon the finalization of the vetting.
Additionally, the Report of the Steering Committee on the Implementation of Recommendations of the Building Bridges Taskforce recommended that all IEBC staff be employed on a three-year contract and that this only be renewed once on condition of outstanding performance.
“The titles of senior IEBC staff should be reviewed from Director to a lesser title such as ‘Head of Department’. The Heads of Departments or Managers should be restored, as in the previous Commission, in order to provide guidance, communicating standards and ensuring departmental compliance for all stages,” the Haji-led Committee recommended.
The task force also recommended a change in the hiring process of Returning Officers to make it more rigorous.
“Returning Officers should be hired through a similar process to the one used for commissioners, with the involvement of public participation,” the report released on Wednesday states.