By MOSES NJAGIH
Intrigues at the electoral body have exploded with the suspension of the personal assistant to the institution’s chief executive officer.
Mr Roy Allan Otieno Odongo was suspended without pay after he was accused of feeding a local daily information on the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC), which was subsequently published in an article, "Tribalism, Nepotism are rife at IIEC".
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But the ultimate target appears to be his boss, James Oswago, after the commission, in a hastily convened press conference, claimed forces were working with the CEO to tarnish the IIEC’s image and manipulate the team that would oversee the General Election.
The IIEC’s role will be expanded when it finally becomes the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). The latest developments are being seen as linked to the jostling over whom among the commissioners would be allowed to serve in the new body.
Curiously, the claims and Odongo’s suspension came when Oswago and three other IIEC officials were in Manila, Philippines, on an official trip to study the country’s electoral voting system.
Odongo rebuffed the allegations in a letter to IIEC chairman Ahmed Issack Hassan, a copy of which has been obtained by The Standard.
The article in question was published in The Star newspaper. But in his letter to Hassan protesting his innocence, Odongo lists five reasons he should not have been suspended.
Odongo said the article was a copy of what was already in circulation "in media houses and a section of civil society".
He noted: "For them to be found in my laptop is not a matter of conjecture, but a matter of me being in possession of information which a whole lot of other people already know and have including your self [Hassan] and the Commissioners."
Odongo denied having communicated with any media house and said the matters Hassan claims are "the commission’s internal affairs" are "fundamental issues regarding governance, ethics, integrity, accountability and the rule of Law."
But the letter to Odongo was written "on behalf of the chief electoral officer," who left Manila Wednesday.
"Note that [the] Plenary in its last sitting decreed that no Personal Assistant in the Commission should be moved, transferred or otherwise interfered with without the approval of the person he/she is assigned to," said Odongo. He also denied that Oswago was aware of the document in his laptop or that the CEO had instructed him "to act any way that would have similar results or effects".
"Investigations have been launched into reports that were circulated to the media, discrediting the commission as a haven of nepotism," said Hassan.
He said they had reported the matter to the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC), which will investigate.
The chairman claimed they suspected that Odongo, who has since been suspended, was working for powerful politicians who are keen to manipulate the new polls body.
"The document found on the laptop was word for word as the one published in the daily, except for the author and it was also originated from the same machine," said Hassan.
Hassan said they had recalled Oswago help in further investigations.
Mr Davis Chirchir, were supposed to accompany Oswago to the Philipines, but returned on arriving at the airport, when they were informed of the dossier that had been released to the Press.
"I am travelling back today. I shall be leaving three officers – a director, a manager, and an elections co-ordinator who were on the trip," Oswago told The Standard from Manila. Oswago, Hassan, commissioner Chirchir and three others had been fully booked on flight for the Philippines.
The team was booked for 12 days at the exclusive Manila Bay Hotel. The entire trip shall cost the taxpayer Sh4, 000,000, with the top officers, holding $7,000 as travelling allowance, including the officers who did not travel.
"I considered the matter very urgent and requiring immediate investigations and that is why we turned. If we would have been away, we would not have investigated these malicious reports," said Hassan.