Blow to IEBC as billions used to fund court cases

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati speaking at Bomas of Kenya during simulation of elections technology on Tuesday, July 19, 2022. [Samson Wire, Standard]

The electoral commission has spent Sh2.6 billion in legal fees in the past four years, a pointer to how election disputes have been hurting the taxpayer.

Every year, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is slapped with lawsuits from organisations and individuals dissatisfied with its decisions.

According to the national government budget implementation review reports from 2018 to 2021, the commission has spent 12.3 per cent of its total expenditure on legal fees with the highest being Sh859.3 million in the financial year 2017/2018.

The commission spent Sh538 million in the Financial Year (FY) 2020/21 in legal fees, Sh611 million in FY 2019/2020 and 610.6 million in FY 2018/2019.

Similarly, a special audit by the office of the Auditor General reveals that out of the Sh1.9 billion IEBC's pending bills payment request, Sh1.4 billion was for legal fees.

While presenting proposals for additional funds before the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee in February 2022, IEBC's Chief Executive Officer Marjan Hussein Marjan stated that Sh1.3 billion would go to the voter registration process while legal fees would take up Sh3 billion.

Recently, the electoral body was embroiled in a court battle with gospel artiste Reuben Kigame over the commission's decision to lock him out of the presidential race.

After hearings, High Court judge Anthony Mrima ruled that IEBC erred by turning away Mr Kigame. The electoral commission has appealed the decision, saying including Kigame in the presidential election would cost the commission Sh971 million in printing new ballot papers and rescheduling freight.

In 2021, the commission lost an appeal against the nullification of the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020, popularly known as the BBI. On August 20, 2021, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court ruling that BBI is null and void and its processes were unconstitutional.

IEBC lost a case to independent candidates who had been locked out of polls for failing to produce signatures and identification documents of their supporters. The court found that this requirement breached the Data Protection Act.

Following the 2017 petition that annulled the presidential election, IEBC faced another court case by Third Way Alliance leader Ekuru Aukot challenging the decision to exclude him from the repeat presidential election.

The court directed IEBC to amend the Gazette Notice and include Dr Aukot, ruling that all candidates who participated in the nullified election qualified to run.