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Showdown looms after MPs alter key IEBC Bill

 NADCO co-chairs Kalonzo Musyoka and Kimani Ichung'wah.  [Dennis Kavisu, Standard]

A House team has gone against the decision by the National Dialogue Committee (Nadco) to pass the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2024 without alterations.

The National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) has proposed key changes to the Bill, which seeks key electoral reforms. 

The draft, which is one of the eight that seek to anchor the report into law, was introduced in Parliament earlier this year with leaders from across the political divide calling for its implementation in its original form. 

Nadoc, co-chaired by National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah (Kenya Kwanza Alliance) and Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka (Azimio la Umoja), said the passage of the Bills would ensure implementation of appropriate electoral, constitutional, legal and policy reforms on issues of concern to Kenyans.

But on Thursday, JLAC introduced a raft of changes to the crucial Bill in a move that could have far-reaching consequences should the report be adopted by the House. 

In its report, the committee proposed the revision of the term of office of the IEBC secretary - who is the chief executive officer - to a single 6-year term, with no option for re-appointment. 

Nadco had proposed that the secretary should hold office for three years and may be eligible for re-appointment for one term. 

The George Murugara-led committee also proposed the amendment of Clause Six to ensure that the commission would, after every General Election, assess election results within one and a half years.

 The bi-partisan talks report had proposed that the review be done within a year. “The review shall be completed within eighteen months after every General Election and the Commission shall publish the report in the Gazette and submit the report to Parliament,” reads the report. 

On the IEBC Selection Panel, the House team agreed on the need to expand membership from seven to nine, with the panel comprising two persons nominated by the Parliamentary Service Commission, representing the majority/minority parties or coalitions of parties. 

It will also consist of two persons nominated by the Political Parties Liaison Committee of whom one shall be from a party other than a Parliamentary party or coalition of parties, another from a political party or coalition forming the national government whereas one should be from a party or coalition not forming government. 

Further, it will consist of one person nominated by the Law Society of Kenya, one from the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya and two nominated by the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya. 

JLAC, however, recommended that the expenses of the Selection Panel are a charge on the budget of the Parliamentary Service Commission. 

“The committee observed that the revision of the membership of the selection panel to give the Political Parties Liaison Committee extra slots for the persons they should nominate is due to the fact that a General Election is a political process,” added the report. 

Nominating bodies under the Act would be required to submit names within 14 days of the commencement of the Act and the President is required to appoint a selection panel within seven days of receipt of the names.

The committee further moved to anchor the boundaries delimitation process in law by ensuring it was no longer a schedule but part of the Act. “The committee noted that the provisions under 36 of the Act on the procedure for delimitation of electoral boundaries are wrongly placed in the Act under the savings and transition. It was therefore of the view that Section 36 of the Act together with the proposed amendments to the section be moved to a new and distinct part of the Act for purposes legislative coherence and logical flow,” says the report. 

Last month, despite calls to subject Nadco report and its anchor Bills to public participation, the opposition insisted that they be implemented without any alteration lest the hard work of the committee in drafting the negotiated document was seen to have been taken for granted. 

Azimio coalition party leader Raila Odinga insisted that the report be implemented as it is, terming the document a good start in the quest to improve governance.

“As we have said before, this document is not perfect. But it is a good start. If fully implemented, it offers an opportunity for peace and reforms that could put this country on a path of prolonged stability and equity in the years ahead,” he said.

Ichung’wah had also noted that the report would be fully implemented as was. “I want to confirm that we have the goodwill to pass the Nadco report in the manner it was passed. There should be no worry about it,” he said.

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