SECTIONS

Senate approves IEBC Amendment Bill on selection panel

The Senate Speaker Amason Kingi during the Senate special sitting to consider IEBC (Amendment) Bill at Parliament Buildings on January 19, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The process to recruit a new team of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is set to begin after Senate adopted the Bill on the selection passed by the National Assembly.

The approval of the IEBC (Amendment), Bill 2022 was supported by 28 senators against 7 after the Senate Justice, Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee Chairperson Bomet Senator Hillary Sigei withdrew all proposed amendments.

In the Bill moved by Senate Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho Senator) during the special senate sitting on January 19, the senators supported changes to the composition of the selection panel.

The Bill proposes to have the Parliamentary Service Commission nominate one man and one woman and the Inter-Religious Council two slots.

The Public Service Commission, Political Parties Liaison Committee and the Law Society of Kenya will each nominate one person to the IEBC selection panel which will recruit the new commissioners.

“The Senate having adopted the proposed amendment to the IEBC (Amendment), Bill 2022 as approved by the National Assembly, it is now upon the relevant bodies to nominate individuals to serve in the selection panel for appointment to commence their duties as soon as possible,” said Cheruiyot.

Senate Majority Whip Boni Khalwale said that approval of the Bill will pave way for the formation of a new IEBC and urged political players to have posterity in mind so as to have credible a commission that will oversee the next General Election while adhering to the Constitution.

Majority of the senators said that it was important for IEBC to have commissioners of integrity since in the past influential individuals have attempted to influence the membership to have an upper hand to their rivals forgetting that they may be at a disadvantage in future.

The Senate Justice, Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee had in the withdrawn proposal sought to have Parliamentary Service Commission, Public Service Commission and Law Society of Kenya nominate one person each to the selection panel which was opposed by most senators.

The committee had proposed to have two persons of opposite gender nominated by the majority and minority parties represented in the Political Parties Liaison Committee at national level and two persons of opposite gender nominated by the Inter- Religious Council of Kenya.

The senators rejected a proposal by Nominated Senator Catherine Mumma by 26 votes against 9 votes in which she sought to have the Parliamentary Service Commission have two slots, Inter Religious Council two slots, Political Parties Liaison Committee two slots and the Law Society of Kenya one slot, denying the Public Service Commission a chance in the panel.

The Bill which has now been approved by both Houses has changed the composition of the selection panel that oversees the recruitment of IEBC commissioners, allowing the Public Service Commission and Political Parties Liaison Committee to nominate one member each.

National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichungwa sponsored the Bill.

The six-year single term for Wafula Chebukati as IEBC Chairperson and Commissioners Boya Molu and Abdi Guliye ended this week while former Vice Chairperson Juliana Cherera with Commissioners Francis Wanderi and Justus Nyangaya resigned in December last year.

Commissioner Irine Masit is currently on suspension is facing a tribunal headed by Justice Aggrey Muchelule that is investigating her suitability to continue holding office.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Act of 2011 states that the Seven-member selection panel shall consist of two men and two women nominated by the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) chaired by National Assembly Speaker.

IEBC Selection panel according to the Act is also supposed to have one person nominated by the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) and two persons nominated by the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya with the Ichungwah Bill seeking to make some changes to the same.

The National Assembly Majority Leader is seeking to reduce the slots allocated to the Parliamentary Service Commission from nominating four people to two with Parliamentary Service Commission and Political Parties Liaison Committee nominating one person each.

“The proposal seeks to reduce the current allocation of the Parliamentary Service Commission which nominates four out of the seven members of the panel, the proposal will allow Parliamentary Service Commission and Political Parties Liaison Committee nominate one member each,” said Ichungwah last year.

The Majority Leader had clarified that the enactment of the Bill shall not occasion additional expenditure of public funds to be provided for in the estimates neither does it delegate legislative powers or contain provisions limiting fundamental rights and freedoms.

According to the Act, a person is qualified for appointment as a member of the section panel if he/she is a Kenyan, meets the requirements of leadership and integrity act, set out in Chapter Six of the Constitution and holds a degree from a university recognized in Kenya.

The respective nominating bodies shall within seven days of the declaration of a vacancy in the office of the chairperson or member of the commission, submit the names of their nominee to the PSC for transmission to the President for appointment before they embark on the exercise.

The selection panel shall elect a Chairperson and Vice Chairperson from among its membership with the Parliamentary Service Commission required to provide secretariat services and facilities required for it to perform its services.

“The selection panel shall within seven days of its appointment invite applications from qualified persons and publish the names of all applicants and their qualifications in the Gazette, two newspapers of national circulation and the website of Parliamentary Service Commission,” states the act.

After conducting the interviews, the selection panel shall select two people qualified to be appointed as Chairperson and nine people qualified to be appointed as members of the commission and shall forward the names to the President for nomination of one person to be appointed as Chairperson and six people for appointment as members.

In shortlisting, nominating or appointing Chairperson and members of the commission, the selection panel, Parliament and the President shall ensure that not more than two thirds of the members are of the same gender and shall ensure regional balance.

The President shall within seven days of receiving the names approved by the National Assembly by notice in the Gazette appoint the Chairperson and the members of the commission.