Wafula Chebukati says IEBC is ready for General Election

Saturday July 8 2017

IEBC Chairperson Wafula Chebukati at the commission's office at Anniversary Towers in Nairobi in June 2017. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

IEBC Chairperson Wafula Chebukati at the commission's office at Anniversary Towers in Nairobi in June 2017. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By WALTER MENYA
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Four weeks from today, some 19.6 million Kenyans will be trooping to the 40,883 polling stations to cast their votes in six elections. As the campaigns enter the home stretch, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission maintains it is ready for the General Election, despite recurrent questions of its preparedness by opposition formations and civil society. IEBC Chairperson Wafula Chebukati spoke to the Nation's Walter Menya on the polls and the opposition's criticism of the agency as working in collusion with the Jubilee Party. In the interview, Mr Chebukati reiterated its independence and, for the umpteenth time, assured the country of a free, fair and transparent election. Here are excerpts of the interview.

Just a month to the General Election, questions still abound about IEBC’s preparedness or lack thereof to deliver a free, fair and credible poll. In your opinion, are these questions justified?

How do we judge levels of preparedness? In the context of elections, I guess it is the degree of compliance with timelines. Despite the challenges IEBC has faced, it is clear we have remained on course on critical aspects like voter registration, candidate nominations, regulations, staff recruitment, technology and other materials. Other than the new challenge with presidential ballot papers, we have delivered on the rest as anticipated.

The opposition has often claimed IEBC and the Jubilee Party, more often than not, speak the same language whenever the opposition raises any concerns. This goes to question your impartiality and independence. What do you have to say about this?

We are independent and we make independent decisions. We have not solicited anyone to speak for us and no one is cajoling us in any way. Those are perceptions, innuendos and fake news.

The Court of Appeal ruling that the presidential election results announced at the constituency levels are final came when IEBC was already planning for a National Tallying Centre. Has that ruling interfered in any way with your preparations? If so, in what ways?

The decision has impact on the traditional concept of a tallying centre. The results will be conveyed electronically and therefore physical delivery by our returning officers will not be there. There are other implications we are still working with and redesigning but it does not completely remove the tallying centre. That is where the coordination and announcement will be done.

Elections are about perception and anything that clouds any decision IEBC makes in the run-up to the election erodes the public confidence on the commission.

That being the case, why did IEBC insist on selecting Al Ghurair Printing & Publishing despite the questions that the opposition had raised? Don’t you fear that that could be setting the stage for people to challenge the outcome of the elections?

The courts have pronounced themselves on this and, since we were faulted only on the issue of public participation, we will be engaging the public from Monday July 10.

IEBC suspended its ICT director Mr James Muhati just a week before it tested its technology which Mr Muhati, incidentally, is required to oversee on Election Day. How will he implement a system whose testing he was not part of?

Mr Muhati was suspended for one month and he has since been reinstated. Institutions have mechanisms and structures for continuity and IEBC is no exception.

After IEBC settled on Al Ghurair the commission further announced it would invite political party representatives, media and civil society representatives to accompany the commission to visit Al Ghurair premises. What became of the planned trip and did IEBC proceed with it without the other players it had invited?

This has now been overtaken by events.

The opposition Nasa has been calling on the commission to furnish it with the complementary voter identification and tallying system that IEBC intends to use in case of technology failure.

But with only 29 days to go, could you confirm whether or not IEBC has a complementary system in case of technology failure?

We will use IDs and passports for complementary purposes. But we only intend to use that on 5,427 people whose biometrics we do not have. They are mainly disabled.

A month after KPMG submitted its audit report of the voter register, IEBC has not been able to publish the full report despite demands by opposition, media and civil society organisations. Instead IEBC keeps hiding behind the provision that it was only required to submit the report to Parliament. What is so hard in IEBC publishing the full report so that the public can make an informed decision on the thoroughness of the work done by KPMG? Is there a legal requirement that stops IEBC from publishing and disseminating the full report?

The impediment is technical rather than legal. KPMG gave us only four hard copies. We will publish when we get a soft copy.

Still on the audit of the register, how much did it cost the taxpayer to pay KPMG to undertake the assignment?

Sh160 million

In IEBC’s estimation, is there hope that the commission could declare the final results before the seven days provided for in law elapse, bearing in mind that the use of technology may make processes faster and smoother?

We are optimistic that results will come in fast. But accuracy supersedes immediacy.

IEBC was to draw up and share with political parties and independent candidates the interim list of returning officers and the deputy returning officers for their input. What has been the progress on that front?

We posted the names on the website but have so far not received any response.

What activities have IEBC lined up between now and the August 8 date?

Recruitment and training of 362,858 temporary staff, testing of systems, voter education and logistics on distribution of election materials.