The audit questions being raised over the financial performance of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission are quite alarming.
The Auditor-General reports that the electoral commission cannot account for some Sh9.5 billion spent on various contracts last year.
On the face value, audit questions do not automatically mean that money has been stolen or lost, but that the sum in question cannot be accounted for.
But it is a signal of serious lapses. For this reason, it is incumbent on IEBC to provide evidence to clear itself or it is surmised that the money was actually lost.
Quite fundamentally, the audit has exposed grave financial indiscretions.
It captures contracts and purchases that cannot be justified. Several items were bought in excess quantities, which means they were not needed.
Others were delivered either late or too close to the elections and, therefore, not put into use as intended.
All these are manifestations of massive wastage of public resources, for which the culprits must be punished.
First, failure to provide election materials on time or procuring unnecessary items compromised administration of quality poll.
It is not lost on Kenyans that this was part of the contestation during the petition on the outcome of the presidential elections, where it was averred that the elections were marred by massive infrastructural and logistical failures, which undermined the results.
In effect, the IEBC is culpable for messing up the elections.
Secondly, the financial irregularities are horrifying. A huge amount of money was supposedly put into purchasing excess data bundles, SIM cards and modems that were never used.
The cost of ballot boxes was inflated. Large quantities of lamps were bought but cannot be physically verified.
It is a narrative of a rogue institution that was on a buying spree, without due regard to value for money. Prudence and integrity were sacrificed at the altar of other interests. This is not acceptable.
As an institution, the IEBC is suffering a serious credibility crisis.
At the governance level, it has only three commissioners, the rest having quit in protest over alleged mismanagement and poor leadership.
The commissioners and the secretariat have perpetually been fighting, leading to a paralysis. As currently constituted, it cannot deliver on its mandate.
When, now, questions arise over financial probity, then, clearly, we have an institution that is not only dysfunctional but a veritable hub for resource pilferage, wastefulness and mismanagement.
In the circumstance, the logical step is for Parliament to hand over the case to investigative authorities to dig deeper, determine the real culprits and institute criminal proceedings against them.