By Steve Mkawale
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will have to conduct the next General Election with a lean budget after a parliamentary committee declined to approve its revised budget of Sh31billion.
The departmental committee on Justice and Legal Affairs recommended in its report to parliament that a sum not exceeding Sh17 billion be approved for the polls and that the electoral body raises another Sh50 million through services they render- to support expenditures under the recurrent vote.
The committee in the report tabled in parliament last Thursday evening, noted that the budget for the elections was too high and recommended that IEBC utilize creative methods of reducing costs, especially in view of current budgetary constraints.
“The IEBC should hire vehicles instead of buying, reduce personnel costs and negotiate with other government departments like the Government printer, to get subsidized rates,” the report tabled by the committee chairman Mr. Njoroge Baiya read in part.
Last week, IEBC chairman Isaack Hassan and Chief Executive Officer James Oswago revised its budget for the next General Election downwards from Sh35 billion to Sh31 billion. But they said the figure could rise to Sh35 billion in the event of a presidential runoff.
The IEBC had initially applied for Sh41.4 billion to conduct the next election but the Cabinet approved a budget of Sh17.5 billion, which the IEBC has insisted was grossly inadequate.
The committee in its report noted with great concerns, the unconscionably high costs relating to electoral and other constitutional matters and recommended that parliament, judiciary and the Law Society of Kenya establish a mechanism-by way of legislation of capping costs related to electoral, governance and other constitutional matters.
It further recommended that in future the IEBC link its voter register electronically to the Ministry of Immigration and Registration of Persons so as to update its records each time a person becomes an eligible voter, or person dies.
During committee hearings, the IEBC had expressed fears that lack of sufficient funds to conduct the next election might force them to stagger the election date by two to three days.
Hassan and his team argued that a huge amount of the money they were requesting would go to capital investments like purchasing of electronic vote machines and poll books.
“Don’t cripple the commission, because as we try to cut down on the budget you may end up affecting the core operations of the commission. Treasury loves cutting down budgets, they derive pleasure from that,” Hassan pleaded.
Oswago said a runoff was likely in the next polls should none of the presidential contenders raise the 50 percent plus one vote that is required to assume leadership of the country.
“Let us not forget we are doing a re-run for the first time, in France they have been doing it for years and I don’t think you would want this commission to make even 0.00 percent of a mistake. So we want to make sure that we meet the highest expectation of Kenyans, so allow us to do that,” he said.
But now the commission would have to work with a lean budget. The previous general election in 2007 cost tax-payers Sh7 billion but brought misery to the country following the post election violence.