By Moses Njagih
Just a week before the arrival of Biometric Voter Register kits as promised by Government, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is grappling with another internal crisis.
Last month IEBC shuffled 210 constituency coordinators and employed 80 for newly created constituencies, but this administrative decision, officially explained as a way to cut off political and business links the staff might have developed in their former stations, has presented fresh problems.
Apart from setting off an internal crisis by the staff who feel they were unfairly sent to work far-off and in unfamiliar stations, there is also the fear that this could have a negative impact on the planning process as they need time to know their new stations well yet the elections are just a little over 100 days away.
But even more significant is the claim by those affected that the transfers were unilaterally effected by a senior officer in IEBC without, they claim, involvement of the human resource department.
Despite IEBC Chairman Issack Hassan defending the changes, sources within IEBC reveal the shuffle caught staff unprepared and even affected people with health complications that require them to stay within certain areas, either to be close to their doctors or due to climatic conditions.
What is clear, based on our field interviews, is that IEBC must swiftly move to quell the growing discontent among these field officers, officially referred to as Constituency Electoral Coordinators (CEC), because of their critical role in planning for elections, including voter registration and the polling process itself.
Hassan defended the transfers, arguing it was important to move the coordinators as some had become “too cozy” with political players in their areas, something he argued undermined their call to be impartial and independent.
“Some were already doing businesses and other undertakings in their areas, which may not be in the best interests of IEBC as they may create fear they will be partisan in the elections,” added Hassan
Sources within IEBC informed The Standard that senior staff in the electoral body’s HR department was not consulted when the transfers were made.
On the other hand the CECs have fought back with appeals that are now being looked into by the management, with the main complaint being that they were being sent so far away from their former stations that it would take them long to settle and acquire basic knowledge of their new stations like, for example, the wards, registration centres and polling centres.
Claims transfers skewed
Worse still is the feeling “and a strong conviction” among some of the CECs that the transfers were politically instigated; with some claiming it was skewed to favour certain regions.
Speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation, the CECs warned that the massive transfers, coming close to elections, are likely to have a great impact on the quality and credibility of the polls.
The coordinators said that while they are not opposed to transfers — terming them as necessary before the elections to avoid situations where they might be perceived to e affiliated to some political players over time — the timing angered them.
“We were all expecting the transfers, but it is wrong when they are carried out at this time when it should be an ongoing routine process,’’ complained a coordinator moved from Central to North Eastern Province.
He added: “We will not have time to settle down and understand the dynamics of our new constituencies, create rapport with intelligence machineries and have time to conduct worthwhile voter education due to language barriers. This was not a well-thought-out idea,” he went on.
Also causing discontent is the growing consensus that some of the postings were discriminatory.