Democracy’s high cost as polls hit Sh70bn

Monday November 20 2017

 elections

A voter casts her ballot at Daraja Mbili Primary School in the Kitutu Chache South parliamentary election on November 7, 2017. Raila Odinga claimed that the cost of the elections was inflated. PHOTO | BENSON MOMANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By JOHN KAMAU
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After spending more than Sh70 billion in this year’s General Election and repeat presidential poll, Kenyans are waking up to the price they have to pay for democracy.

And that is besides the amount used every year to finance the main political parties.

It also includes the extra money given to the spy agency National Intelligence Services (NIS), which was allocated Sh3.2 billion ahead of the repeat presidential election.

The police, through the Interior ministry, also received Sh4.6 billion, bringing to more than Sh20 billion the amount used for the repeat presidential poll.

IEBC
The Sh60 billion used directly by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) means it spent Sh3,000 on each of the 19 million registered voters to exercise their democratic right.

The money is equivalent to what the Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) lent Kenya to fund construction of the Lamu-Garissa-Isiolo road or the bailout that Kenya Airways was seeking.

It is also more than half of the Sh120 billion that all 47 counties spent on salaries and allowances in the last financial year.

BUDGET
Initially, the government had budgeted for Sh50 billion for the August 8 elections, with Sh5.3 billion set aside for security operations and policing.

That the extra money used to finance the repeat election was a blow to the government could be deduced from President Kenyatta’s reactions on the campaign trail and after the Supreme Court ordered a fresh presidential poll.

President Kenyatta continually criticised the opposition supremo Raila Odinga and his National Super Alliance (Nasa) for quitting the race after the government had budgeted Sh12 billion for the election.

BALLOT PAPERS
The high cost of the election is partly due to the fact that ballot papers are printed abroad and within strict deadlines.

The IEBC has always done last-minute single-sourcing of the printer, leaving little room for competitive pricing.

The tussle on who would print the ballots has always ended up in court, with the IEBC having its way.

This year, a five-judge bench of the Court of Appeal reversed a High Court decision that had terminated the contract for the printing of the presidential ballots by Dubai-based Al-Ghurair.

The High Court had held that public participation was a mandatory requirement for such a procurement.

TECHNOLOGY
Kenya’s election is a combination of electronic and manual systems.

The IEBC purchased some expensive technological Kenya Integrated Elections Management Systems (Kiems) kits ahead of the elections.

While some 45,000 gadgets were ordered, including the innovative MorphoTablet 2 from Safran Identity & Security, they had to be reconfigured for the repeat poll.

The tablet was used for the biometric identification and matching of voters’ particulars while the touchscreen Android device had a 4G high-speed data transfer system for results transmission.
BUDGET
The amount of money used for the election has become scandalous, with Mr Odinga claiming it had been inflated by the Jubilee Party.

“Experts have indicated that we only need Sh800 million to have a repeat of the exercise,” Mr Odinga claimed but Jubilee denied having a hand in the procurement.

For the repeat poll, the IEBC said the money was required to hire poll officials, procure election materials and technology as well as advertising and transport.

By then, it had already signed a Sh2.4 billion deal with Safran and Morpho to upgrade the 40,883 Kiems technology that had been used in August for transmission of results.

IEBC chief executive Ezra Chiloba, who had asked for Sh13.8 billion for the repeat poll, said Sh2.4 billion was to be spent on the 300,000 election officials.