MPs query IEBC’s ‘fat’ budget

Ghana spends a third of what Kenya uses in her polls.

Sunday February 21 2016

From left: MPs Michael Kisoi Munyao (Mbooni), Nicolas Gumbo (Rarieda) and Kenneth Okoth (Kibra) address the media at Parliament on January 5, 2016. Public Accounts Committee Chairman Nicolas Gumbo said the team’s ongoing scrutiny of the special audit of the procurement of election materials by the IEBC had revealed some interesting facts. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

From left: MPs Michael Kisoi Munyao (Mbooni), Nicolas Gumbo (Rarieda) and Kenneth Okoth (Kibra) address the media at Parliament on January 5, 2016. Public Accounts Committee Chairman Nicolas Gumbo said the team’s ongoing scrutiny of the special audit of the procurement of election materials by the IEBC had revealed some interesting facts. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By JOHN NGIRACHU
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MPs have questioned the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s Sh45 billion budget for the next General Election on the basis that it appears too high and that the institution pays more than it should for services.

Speaking at the National Assembly’s leadership retreat in Mombasa, they told IEBC Chairman Issack Hassan that conducting a General Election in Kenya is more expensive than in most other countries.  

Public Accounts Committee Chairman Nicolas Gumbo said the team’s ongoing scrutiny of the special audit of the procurement of election materials by the IEBC had revealed some interesting facts.

“One of the things that is emerging is that elections in Kenya, when you compare the cost per voter, is the most expensive in the world. If you look at India, it’s less than one US dollar. In Kenya it’s close to $30 per vote cast,” said Mr Gumbo.

Ghana, he observed, spends a third of what Kenya uses in her polls.

He said the previous Parliament agreed to approve IEBC’s budget for the 2013 General Election on the basis that the voter registration and identification equipment would be used in successive polls.

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich said that the ministry’s analysis of the budget presented by IEBC showed that the cost per voter would be about $24 (about Sh2,400) and it still looked unacceptably high.

He said the commission was allocated Sh17 billion and still has about Sh5 billion in pending bills for the 2013 General Election.

“We are saying that if Sh27 billion was the right figure, then what we should take into account is the growth in population and inflation so the most we are talking about is a budget of about Sh30 or 32 billion.”

He said the Treasury would work with IEBC to come up with a realistic budget while also avoiding a situation where there are pending bills after the election.  

WHY THE HIGH COST?

Nyeri Woman Rep Priscilla Nyokabi (TNA) said the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee is also concerned about the expensive lawyers the commission is in the habit of using for its cases.

Mr Hassan said the analysis that makes Kenya’s elections look expensive is not fair.

He said that while the voter registration equipment won’t be replaced, the Electronic Voter Identification Devices (Evid) had a problem with the batteries and these would need to be either replaced or the entire equipment replaced.

Sh1.2 billion was spent on them.

He said the cost of elections in Kenya is increased because the policemen and other armed security agents who man the polling stations are paid per day (Sh1,000).

The fact that there are six positions to be filled on the same day is also a factor.

“If we were only doing the presidential election, we would only buy 40,000 ballot boxes. Now that we are doing six, we have to buy 240,000 ballot boxes,” said Mr Hassan.

He said the cost of ballot papers in Kenya is higher because they are made using expensive paper because of the security features.

APPROPRIATION

He also admitted the commission is forced to hire vehicles for ferrying its staff and the election materials on voting day at a higher cost because the suppliers know their services and therefore charge them a higher rate.

A firm that supplied ballot papers for the referendum in 2010 was in January fined Sh51 million after its directors were found to have paid bribes to electoral commission officials to give them contracts.

This gave a rare glimpse into the level of corruption in the procurement, which drives up the cost of elections as the cost of bribes is factored into the costs.

Of the Sh45 billion, Sh14.3 billion is budgeted for staff and administrative costs, Sh10 billion for election logistics and Sh7 billion on voting materials and ballot papers.

Sh916 million is for managing election results and tallying centres and Sh475 million for security.

So confused was the commission in the procurement of materials for the last election that lamps and metal detectors were delivered long after March 2013.

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