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What it will cost Kenyan taxpayers to send nine IEBC officials home

By Protus Onyango | April 22nd 2016

It would cost the taxpayer almost Sh436.7 million to send home and replace the nine electoral commissioners.

The Opposition insists that the current Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) should not handle the next General Election.

The term for the current IEBC commissioners expires in November next year.

According to the 2015-2016 budget, the National Treasury pays Sh82 million in salaries and Sh50.8 million in allowances for the nine IEBC commissioners every year. This translates to a total of Sh11.1 million per month.

If they agree to exit, the current commissioners would be paid Sh210 million, based on their current salaries, while the incoming commissioners, if remunerated at the same rate, will earn a maximum pay of Sh210 million.

Additionally, the commissioners are entitled to gratuity, calculated at 31 per cent of their yearly salary for the years served.

This means that the nine, each earning Sh1.2 million per month, will get Sh372,000 for the five years served, translating to Sh1.86 million per person and Sh16.7 million for the team.

The current commissioners are Issack Hassan (chair), Lillian Mahiri-Zaja (vice chair), Albert Bwire, Kule Godana, Yusuf Nzibo, Abdullahi Sharawe, Thomas Letangule, Muthoni Wangai and Mohamed Alawi.

19 more months

Given that their term expires on November 9 next year, it means the commissioners have 19 more months to draw salaries and allowances.

Lawyer Kennedy Akide said the law requires that if the commissioners were to be sent home now, they must be paid their dues until the expiry of their term.

Though Mr Akide supports the idea of disbanding the IEBC, he called for due process to be followed.

"There is a legitimate outcry from a cross-section of Kenyans that IEBC should not handle the 2017 General Election. But we must as a country follow a proper and legitimate way of having new commissioners," he said.

He noted that the legal procedure for removing the commissioners could be tedious and time-wasting and asked the Government to negotiate for their exit and compensate them.

"There is a quagmire in the legal process as the law contemplates removing one commissioner at a time. This is so because grounds for removing one commissioner might not apply to the other. Forming a tribunal to investigate each will take time," Akide said.

Eric Mutua, the immediate former LSK chairman, echoed Akide's sentiments, saying that the country needs an impartial electoral body.

"There are issues of credibility surrounding how IEBC managed the 2013 elections. Given that their term expires in November 2017, it is prudent to hire new ones now so that they familiarise themselves with election management," Mutua said.

He also agreed that the legal process of removing the commissioners is cumbersome and only a political removal is feasible.

Kisumu Senator Anyang Nyong'o, however, disagreed and said the electoral body team can be removed from office following the law.

"What we need is proper legislation to remove them. The IEBC was put in office by Parliament and the same institution can remove them based on law," Prof Nyong'o said.

The senator noted there were sufficient grounds to send home the commissioners. "They can go to court to claim their dues but the country is bigger than them. They should go home because they have not learnt their lesson. Up to now, they still don't have one voter register they can present to the public for verification," Nyong'o said.

But Kajiado North MP Moses Sakuda opposed the proposed disbandment of IEBC. "There is no way the team can go home now. They have done a good job," Mr Sakuda said.

Calls for the disbandment of IEBC have been coming from a cross-section of Kenyans, who have accused the electoral body of many ills.

At the end of their two-day conference at St Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Nairobi recently, 26 Catholic bishops urged that some issues be urgently addressed.

They singled out corruption allegations facing the Supreme Court and IEBC as a major cause of concern.

"Elections are very important activities in any country as they promote good governance and democracy. The IEBC is such an important institution in this process and when it is also riddled with claims of corruption and incompetence, then our democracy and future is in danger,'' the bishops' said.

"We are appalled by information that institutions that bear the key responsibilities in our country are rotting away in corruption," the bishops said.

Outgoing Anglican Archbishop Eliud Wabukala urged IEBC to work towards regaining its faltering trust. He said any misunderstanding as well as controversies stalking the electoral agency should be addressed early enough to forestall any hitches during next year's General Election.

Similar calls were made by Commission on Administrative Justice (CAJ) chairman Otiende Amollo.

Amollo has told IEBC officials that expiry of their term conflicts with the election cycle and this may plunge the country into a constitutional crisis.

He said the various timelines related to a contested presidential poll, including a possible run-off, would take the election cycle to December 2, 2017.

"By this time, there would be no substantive chairperson or commissioner at IEBC. The foregoing creates the possibility of a constitutional crisis due to the role of the IEBC chairperson in presidential elections," Amollo said.

Okoa Kenya

The Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) and some Jubilee MPs have also been calling for IEBC's reconstitution.

CORD leaders said they will  hold a public rally at Kamukunji in Nairobi on Saturday before staging a sit-in at IEBC offices on Monday to force the agency to allow the 'Okoa Kenya' referendum and evict them from office.

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria noted IEBC should be disbanded on grounds of unsatisfactory service delivery.

"The commission has fallen short of our expectations as Jubilee fraternity. It has never called for an inter-parties meeting to do a joint post-mortem of the last elections. This is the main reason we should be disbanding the IEBC, not CORD's claims," Mr Kuria said.

But IEBC insists that it is ready to conduct the 2017 elections. "We have come up with a strategy to deal with the deficiencies that challenged the commission in 2013. We are committed to delivering free, fair and credible elections in 2017 and beyond. We urge all stakeholders to play their part to ensure that this is realised," Hassan said.

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