The Chebukati-Chiloba relationship was always mechanical. It exhibited a clear lack of trust among them to an extent even mundane internal issues were detailed in memos.
Chebukati seemed convinced that Chiloba was wily and in need of constant micro-managing to bar him from undermining authority. On his part, Chiloba was dismissive of his boss as a person in haste to fault-find and lay blame.
For instance, when on September 7, 2017, Chebukati gave Chiloba a couple of hours to explain the bungling of the August election, the latter took his sweet time and responded four days later without even making the slightest attempt to explain or excuse the delay.
"I must at the outset note that the August General Election was conducted by the Commission comprising the Commissioners and the Secretariat who by law bear joint responsibility. This explains why both the chairman and the secretariat personnel, including temporary staff at the field level, filed affidavits in response to the various allegations made by petitioners," Chiloba responded, derisively.
In some instances, Chiloba viewed his then boss as ignorant.
Indeed, in exchange of memos over the printing of an extra 1.2 million papers (instead of the 196,115, as agreed in the plenary), Chiloba told Chebukati that the plenary resolution on the issue "is self-evident" — that one percent shall be printed and the number rounded off to the nearest 50.
Chiloba, in papers he filed in court to challenge his suspension, says relations between the secretariat and the commission hit headwinds three months after the Chebukati team got into office. He even raised the matter with the chairperson, in a letter of April 27, 2017.
"I have observed on several occasions that some commissioners directly issue instructions to members of the secretariat without my knowledge. This has placed staff in a very awkward position in terms of reporting lines".
Three months to election and Chiloba’s secretariat and Chebukati’s commission were at war; in self-destruct mode. The "opinion differences" coalesced around assignment of staff, procurement, and conduct of elections. "The issue that arose is that the chairman was in my view trying to undertake the role reserved for the secretariat," Chiloba says in an affidavit he filed at Employment and Labour Relations Court, Nairobi, challenging his suspension.
And it wasn’t just Chebukati who allegedly overstepped his mandate. In a memo dated April 27, 2017, Chiloba complained also about an attempt by Commissioner Molu, who was in charge of the Human Resources Committee, to influence the posting of IEBC staff in Isiolo and Marsabit counties.
Yet, according to sources within IEBC, the feud pitting Chiloba against Chebukati wasn’t just about style. The two individuals were in control of a Sh50 billion agency.
Multiple interviews and audit reports unravel a commission allergic to procurement laws. It circumvented fairness, competition, equitability, and cost-effectiveness, and awarded contracts to preferred suppliers. It even defied its own procurement procedures and decisions.
Because of the financial indiscipline, the 2017 election was extraordinarily expensive. Chebukati and Chiloba have traded accusations over the financial indiscipline.
That apart, the genesis of the feud has also to do with the underlying political undertones — the way the current commissioners were appointed and thus, their political allegiance.
Apart from Roselyne Akombe, all were said to be string-puppets of political power barons.
At one time, a leading daily newspaper characterised Chebukati as one either "indecisive" or "under siege from within the commission". Francis Atwoli, the COTU secretary general, asked the chairperson to take charge.