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MPs plan IEBC overhaul in campaign for poll reforms

Wednesday October 17 2018

Peter Kaluma

Homa Bay Town Member of Parliament at the Supreme Court, Nairobi, on August 29, 2017. He has proposed a five-member Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

DAVID MWERE
By DAVID MWERE
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SAMWEL OWINO
By SAMWEL OWINO
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The National Assembly is considering part-time service by electoral commissioners and reducing their number to five in a debate on reorganising the crippled agency.

On Tuesday, the Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs was non-committal on the two subjects, saying the House will have the final say after broad deliberations.

Chairman William Cheptumo spoke a day after Homa Bay Town Member of Parliament Peter Kaluma proposed a five-member Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Mr Kaluma, a committee member, wants the majority and minority parties, in the context of parliamentary representation, given two slots each and the fifth one filled by a representative of the Law Society of Kenya, who will be fronted by the electoral body.

CENTRES OF POWER

Mr Cheptumo promised a new-look IEBC ahead of the possible referendum before the 2022 General Election as well as the delimitation of electoral boundaries. The committee wants to establish a permanent selection panel for the IEBC. The team that recruited commissioners led by Wafula Chebukati was disbanded immediately after.

The panel will advertise, shortlist, conduct interviews and recommend individuals suitable for the job to the House. The chair said it will "ensure operations of the commission do not grind to a halt with the resignation of commissioners as is the case now".

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The debate on the roles of the IEBC chairman and the chief executive officer (CEO) has also attracted the attention of the committee.

Though the mandates of the two are distinct, many have linked wrangles at the commission to “two centres of power.”

WEIGHTY ISSUES

Ezra Chiloba was sacked as the CEO last Friday on claims of misuse of public funds as indicated in the auditor-general’s report.

“There is a serious concern by Kenyans on the state of the IEBC, more so on the question of quorum. As currently constituted, the IEBC does not have the requisite quorum to deal with weighty issues,” Mr Cheptumo noted.

The Constitution provides that membership of constitutional commissions, including the IEBC, shall be from three to nine. The IEBC in place ahead of the 2017 poll had seven members, with the law putting quorum at five members.

RESIGNATIONS

Mr Chebukati and members Abdi Guliye and Boya Molu are the only ones left following the resignation of four of their colleagues.

In April, vice-chairperson Connie Nkatha Maina and commissioners Margaret Mwachanya and Paul Kurgat quit, saying they lacked faith in the chair and his leadership.

Their move followed that of Roselyne Akombe before the repeat October 26 presidential election. She said the agency was not committed to a free and fair process.

Mr Cheptumo noted that Mr Kaluma’s proposal is yet to be submitted to the committee for consideration. Ugunja lawmaker Opiyo Wandayi supported nomination of commissioners by political parties.

“After reducing the commissioners to five, their role should be restricted to policy and governance,” he said.

He also proposed an overhaul of the secretariat and a competitive recruitment mechanism.