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IEBC faces budget hitches with less than a year to polls

NATIONAL
By Roselyne Obala | October 7th 2021
IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati during the Official launch of enhanced continuous voter registration at the Nakuru Athletic Club (NAC) on October 4, 2021.[Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Next year’s General Election is going to be a costly exercise, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and the mistrust among political players.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) sought a budget of Sh40.9 billion, but the National Treasury allocated them Sh26.3 billion in the current financial year, which was ratified by Parliament. This leaves a deficit of Sh14.6 billion.

However, during the 2017 General Election the electoral agency was allocated Sh49.9 billion, giving a cost per registered voter of Sh2,546 (19.6 million registered voters) and an estimated Sh10 billion more was used for the repeat presidential election, giving a cumulative cost of Sh3,056 per voter.

This is higher compared to the 2013 polls, where the commission budget was Sh36 billion with the cost per registered voter being Sh2,500 (14.4 million registered voters).

In the coming polls, IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati stated that if they meet the target of registering 25 million voters, in the month-long mass voter registration, this would translate to a cost per voter of Sh1,640.

The commission targets to register more than six million new voters.

IEBC has indicated it is in the process of procuring a state-of-the-art management information system to run the elections.

This is expected to address the flaws that led to the nullification of the 2017 presidential election by the Supreme Court over irregularities and illegalities.

The commission advertised the tender for the procurement of an elections management system that is expected to support voter registration, voter identification, results transmission and candidates’ registration among others. However the tender was suspended following the directive of Public Procurement Administration and Review Board.

National Assembly Budget and Appropriation committee chairman and Kieni MP Kanini Kega was categorical that they will deal with an itemized budget that the commission must defend and ensure there is no spill over.

“The budget is huge. The commission must justify why it needs Sh41 billion for this exercise. In 2017, it was understandable because they were procuring new Kenya Integrated Electronic Management Systems (Kiems), alongside the Biometric Voter Registrations (BVRs) Kits acquired in 2012,” argued Mr Kega.

He disclosed that next week the committee together with the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) will meet with the commissioners to deliberate on the budget deficit.

Zero-based budget

“Next week we will consider the IEBC’s itemized budget which must be justified. We are committed to giving IEBC enough funds. We are working with a zero-based budget,” he said.

“We have no money. We are focused on buying vaccines and other essential services. The money sought must be explained line by line. We are not going to allocate more funds towards purchasing the kits, a huge component of the hardware was purchased in 2017,” he added.

Kega noted that they will make sure no cent is squandered or go to waste.

“We will ensure no funds are siphoned through unexplained budgets. We will support the commission to make purchases early because last minute expenditure is costly as was the case in 2017,” he said.

Giving an example of buying a plane ticket at the eleventh hour, he noted, makes one pay high premium.

IEBC currently uses the Kenya Kiems, which was controversially acquired from Idemia, formerly OT-Morpho, for the last polls.

According to the tender documents, the commission needs 55,000 tablets for the 2022 poll to cater for the approximately 53,000 polling stations as well as provide back-up as and when needed.

The tender document states: “The backend system should be able to process at least 53,000 concurrent sessions. The system should have the ability to remotely configure, update, monitor, disable and wipe the RTS application software or settings on the tablet. The systems shall be able to display the transmitted results from approximately 53,000 polling stations.”

Kega called for prudent use of funds even as IEBC sought Sh4 billion for the mass voter registration but only got Sh1.2 billion

“We are not going to extend the month long exercise because there is no money but the second phase, we will consider in the Supplementary Budget with IEBC and JLAC next week,” he said.

Due to budget constraints, the commission allocated three BVRs kits in the 1,450 wards and some roaming kits in case of any need for voter registration.

“The exercise entails the use of three BVR kits per ward which will be rotating across the registration centres for the 30 days. A ward based BVR kit movement schedule will be prepared and shared with the local leaders and publicized by voter mobilizers,” stated IEBC

The commission has budgeted the wage bill of temporary polling officials at Sh6 billion and elections technology Sh4.5 billion.

Chebukati disclosed that they will print 1,882 ballot papers for the six elective seats.

The ballot papers printing is estimated to cost Sh5.9 billion (occasioned by the large number of security features to curb trust deficit).

The commission will tender for printing of ballots that will be sealed and coded to the various polling stations with seven different security features.

According to the chairman, this will guarantee confidence of the public and integrity of the ballot.

“It will make it simpler as everything will be printed and taken to the polling stations. Each polling station will have booklets for the registered voters. Unlike in the past when we printed extra to weed out stuffing of ballots,” said the chairman.

“We will increase the polling stations from 40,000 in 2017 to 53,000 in 2022. Each polling station will have a maximum of 700 registered voters. Others have less but will print the exact number. It is unlikely that we will have 100 per cent turnout going by past elections and by-elections,” he explained.

Commissioner Abdi Guliye said the elections budget might go up if the government increases the funding to allow the poll officers who are exposed to danger to get insurance.

“Each polling station will have at least two officers. We factor in transport and the officer hired for 15 days to lead the exercise including training,” said Prof Guliye.

Chebukati said they will conduct the polls in strict compliance to Covid-19 protocols. He noted that IEBC will need Sh588 million to acquire protective equipment against the coronavirus.

“An estimated Sh588 million is required for procuring items to be used in Covid-19 prevention including thermometer guns, sanitisers, soap and washing points,” explained the chairman.

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