IEBC must explain its own reckless announcements and systems failure

Tuesday March 12 2013

By JAINDI KISERO [email protected]

I am praying that the Supreme Court will not let the presidential election petition filed by Prime Minister Raila Odinga drag on for too long.

We must do a serious audit on the performance of commissioners and staff of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

When you make contradictory statements and reckless announcements as the commissioners did while tallying was going on at the Bomas of Kenya tallying centre, you breed suspicions about fraud even where there is none.

Go through the video clips covering the period, and you will see incredible sloppiness in the manner in which the commissioners made the pronouncements.

On Friday morning, we were all glued to television screens — calculators and tablets in hand — doing additions while keeping track of the constituencies whose results had not been announced.

At around midnight, Commissioner Yusuf Nzibo came to the podium to announce that the commission had concluded announcements for that day.

He said that tallying had temporarily been suspended to allow political party agents to scrutinise documents.

The final announcements and tallying, he added, would be made at 11am the following day.

NTV’s Linus Kaikai, who was anchoring a show that was more or less playing the role of watchdog on the tallying process, crunching the numbers to interrogate whether Mr Uhuru Kenyatta would hit the 50 per cent threshold of all votes cast, decided it was time to go to sleep.

“Gentlemen”, he told the guests on the programme, “we have an early night”. He promised viewers that programming would resume the following day in line with the announcement by Mr Nzibo.

Meanwhile, the live feed from the tallying centre was left to continue running on the screen.

As it turned out, Mr Kaikai was wrong. A few hours after the watchdogs had gone to sleep, another commissioner, completely out of the blue, and without making reference to what Dr Nzibo had said, came on and started announcing other results.

The numbers were hurriedly tallied and new results showing that Mr Kenyatta had surpassed the 50 per cent threshold were transmitted to the live feed around 2am.

Did Mr Nzibo tell us a lie or was he countermanded? If he deliberately lied to the public, he must be held to account.

There was this time when IEBC chairman Issack Hassan sought to explain why the tally for spoilt votes was increasing so rapidly.

He said it was all about a computer error that had artificially increased the tally by multiples of eight without elaborating, leaving room for speculation and all manner of theories.

If a number is being increased by a multiple of eight, isn’t it arithmetically the case that the final number should be divisible by eight? Is that the picture you see when you look at the video clips?

The biggest beef I have with the IEBC is the collapse of the voter identification and electronic vote transmission systems.

Mark you, this technology is what was going to make it possible to detect ballot stuffing and other irregularities.

Indeed, election integrity can only be assured where you have systems that generate polling data that leave behind an easily verifiable audit trail.

What caused the system to collapse? Was it sheer ineptitude or sabotage?

Before we can apportion blame, we must demand to see copies of all service contracts the IEBC signed with these parties to determine who was supposed to do what. Is it true that IEBC outsourced servers from third parties?

When the Supreme Court case is over, we will also demand to be shown all incident reports by all third party technology suppliers, including Safaricom.

I have seen a letter showing how, hardly 10 days before the General Election, the Safaricom CEO, Mr Bob Collymore, threatened to pull out of the deal with the IEBC, listing issues, which, he said, “could seriously compromise IEBC’s ability to execute credible elections”, and citing casualness on the part of top IEBC officials.

Clearly, Collymore knew what he was talking about.