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How ban on donor funding will affect 2022 general election

By Moses Nyamori | October 5th 2021

IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati. [Phillip Orwa, Standard]

The government’s decision to ban direct funding to the electoral commission threatens to lock out millions of eligible voters from being enlisted ahead of next year's elections.

Equally worrying is lack of funds to finance training Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) officials, a situation that could compromise the credibility of the polls.

The commission has since raised fears that it may fail to conduct the second phase of mass voter registration. IEBC kicked off mass voter registration yesterday targeting at least 4.5 million new voters.

IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati said they only have funds to conduct the exercise for 30 days between October 4 and November 2.

He said for the two phases of mass voter registration, they sought Sh4 billion but they were given Sh1.2 billion. Out of this, Sh538 million goes to temporary staff wages while the balance is apportioned to materials, transport and logistics.

“Voter registration has been confined to the 290 constituency offices due to limitation in funding. The registration will take place in the 1,450 wards based on the budgetary allocation from Treasury,” said Chebukati while engaging with the Political Parties Liaison committee yesterday.

Six million new voters are targeted before the August 9, 2022, General Election.

Chebukati said the next polls will require a Sh40.9 billion budget but the National Treasury through Parliament had allocated Sh26.9 billion, leaving a deficit of Sh14.6 billion and making the process the most expensive through last minute procurement.

The chair pegs the wage bill of temporary polling officials at Sh6 billion, elections technology Sh4.5 billion and ballot papers Sh5.9 billion. Even though the commission has not itemised the cost of the mass registration, it argues that poor resourcing could derail the second phase scheduled for January.

“The high cost of elections is partly attributed to over legislation, for example, the Elections Act caps the number of voters per polling station at 700. It is estimated that for the 2022 elections, there will be 53,000 polling stations up from 40,000 in 2017,” said the chairman.

Chebukati has protested the move to cut off the donors in a letter to Foreign Affairs PS Macharia Kamau. He argued that the government has to lift the restriction to finance the commission 100 per cent if they are to deliver a credible poll.

The commission has raised concern that the deficit of close to Sh14 billion was a threat to election preparedness.

“It is informative to note that an election budget is pegged on activities during an electoral period. To supplement or bridge any deficit in its budget, the commission engages development partners who generally assist in technical support in non-strategic areas such as capacity building, training of the election officials, security officials and facilitating other areas that are inadequately funded by Treasury,” said Chebukati.

Foreign Affairs PS Macharia Kamau. [David Njaaga, Standard]

He said funding by donors had enabled the commission to run activities and operations seamlessly.

The commission had in the past benefited from donations running into billions from development partners like the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP).

Between 2015 and 2018, the UNDP’s Support to Electoral Processes in Kenya wired a Sh2.6 billion to IEBC, the Judiciary, civil society, the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties and other independent institutions engaged in the electoral process.

Chebukati said that appointing a Foreign Affairs ministry official to monitor donor funding to the commission was a threat to their independent operations. “…we reiterate the commission’s independence in the performance of its functions which shall not be subject to the control of any authority as envisaged in the Constitution,” he said.

He said that the commission was ready to engage the ministry for logistical support but opposed plans to stifle it by denying it foreign funding.

“The commission requires logistical support from your office for the realisation of its mandate and not the intended stifled constraints and/or bottlenecks on financial assistance that have been envisioned in the aforesaid letters,” said Chebukati. “If you are stopping the commission from getting assistance from donors, then the National Treasury must fund it 100 per cent in terms of the proposed budget,” he added.

The commission said it is required to submit an annual report to the President and the Speakers of the National Assembly and the Senate.

The report details the commission’s functions, performance on its activities, affairs and financial statements.

Chebukati said that the commission was not accountable to a government ministry or department but to Parliament. “The commission though not accountable to a government ministry or department, is accountable to the legislature but enjoys varying degrees of financial autonomy and accountability, as well as performance accountability,” he said.

The commission said it has in the past experienced financial challenges occasioned by insufficient and untimely allocation and release of funds.

Chebukati said it was because of such financial constraints that it sought financial autonomy through the implementation of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Fund to be administered on behalf of the commission by its CEO.

IEBC Chair Wafula Chebukati cuts a ribbon during the launch of voter registration at the Nakuru Athletic Club (NAC). October 4, 2021. [Kipsang Joseph Standard]

The fund has, however, remained unoperational due to an alleged reluctance by the National Treasury to implement the requirement.

In July, the government announced that it will shoulder the mandate of financing electoral expenses, while donors seeking to support in the event of deficit will do so through the ministry.

The ministry said that foreign interference has have been a matter of concern and has been cited for undermining democracy.

“In light of this, the ministry reiterates that the Government of the Republic of Kenya bears the sole prerogative to coordinate election-related needs and resource gaps that may call for partnership and other forms of engagement with external entities including development partners,” said the ministry.

It adds: “The ministry wishes to inform embassies, missions, international organisations, and other foreign entities interested in supporting Kenya’s preparations towards the 2022 polls to await expression of such need from the government.”

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