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House committee turns away IEBC boss, targets all commissioners

COUNTIES
By Wilfred Ayaga | May 13th 2016
IEBC Vice Chair Lilian Mahiri-Zaja(L) and CEO Ezra Chiloba(2nd R) chat with National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee members Peter Kaluma (R) and Agostino Neto (2nd L) after the committee meeting at County Hall, Nairobi on Thursday 12/05/16 over controversial misappropriate of funds of the BVR kits. PHOTO:BONIFACE OKENDO

A damning corruption report in Parliament could be the Achilles Heel of embattled Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) commissioners in the wake of demands by key political players that they quit.

This emerged after a key House committee said it will also not approve the IEBC budget with the current commissioners at the helm, unless each of the indicted commissioners turns up to explain their role in the loss of Sh4 billion through botched procurement of electoral kits ahead of the last general election.

The procurement debacle is captured in the report by the House Public Accounts committee (PAC) tabled in the House a month ago.

The warning was made after IEBC Chairman Isaack Hassan and fellow commissioners skipped a sitting of the Justice and Legal Affairs committee, drawing the ire of members, including Chairman Samuel Chepkonga.

"We are dealing with very weighty issues and we expected the commissioners to be here to explain themselves. They want money to buy other electoral equipment. We first want to know what happened to the other equipment," Mr Chepkonga said.

Only IEBC Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba, his deputy Betty Nyabuto, Vice Chairperson Lilian Mahiri-Zaja and a handful of junior secretariat staff appeared before the committee under whose mandate IEBC falls.

"The matters we are investigating touch on individual commissioners and there are others touching on the chair himself. As a committee we want to be satisfied since we are headed into an electoral process and we want to ensure that you are not going to exert undue pressure on suppliers," he added.

Ugenya MP David Ochieng said: "What you are seeing here is the casual manner in which this commission operates. We did not say we wanted to meet the secretariat, but the commissioners." The committee has pulled out a damming report in the middle of a vicious debate on the exit of the commissioners and reconstitution of the polls' body.

"There cannot be a meeting where only the vice-chair appears. The agenda we have is very heavy and we can't have this meeting without commissioners. We want to know if we are investing in a rogue institution," Mr Ochieng said. Although the report was prepared by a different committee and is yet to be debated in the House, the Justice committee appears keen on its contents.

Commissioners recommended for investigation and prosecution are Mr Hassan, Mohamed Alawi and Thomas Letangule. The report alleged that the three orchestrated the scandal that led to loss of the money. Others implicated are Albert Bwire, Kule Godana, Yusuf Nzibo, Abdullahi Sharawe and Muthoni Wangai.

The commissioners have also been recommended for a lifestyle audit to establish their source of wealth following the disputed elections.

The committee found it ironic that the only commissioner who had turned up for the committee hearings, Mahiri-Zaja, was one not mentioned in the report.

"The people who have appeared here are good. The ones we want are not here," said Homa Bay MP Peter Kaluma.

"We cannot have this meeting. We are supposed to be discussing the 2017 elections and the commissioners are supposed to respond. This is a cavalier attitude," Ndhiwa MP Agostinho Neto said.

Hassan and his team are now expected to appear before the Chepkonga commiittee on Tuesday.

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