Risk of dead voters casting ballot after IEBC delays audit

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati. IEBC is required to conduct audit of the register six months before elections. [Phillip Orwa, Standard]

Dead voters could cast their ballot in the August 9 polls following the revelation that the electoral agency is time-barred from auditing the register.

In the absence of an audit of the voters’ register that includes knocking out names of dead voters, the country risks going to the elections with a compromised roll that can be easily exploited to manipulate the outcome.

The risk of having dead voters voting has been compounded by a law currently before Parliament that seeks to introduce manual identification of voters as an alternative to the electronic process.

The Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2022 “seeks to amend Section 44A of the Act to provide for a complementary mechanism for voter identification and transmission of election results.”

Claims of dead voters casting their ballot have been at the heart of alleged election manipulation in the previous elections.

According to the Elections Act 2017, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) was required to conduct an audit of the register six months before the General Election, a period that has since elapsed.

“The Commission may, at least six months before a General Election, engage a professional reputable firm to conduct an audit of the Register of Voters for the purpose of— verifying the accuracy of the Register; recommending mechanisms of enhancing the accuracy of the register and updating the register,” states the Act.

Revelation that IEBC is time-barred emerged yesterday when the acting CEO appeared before the National Assembly Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

And in a new twist, IEBC acting Chief Executive Officer Hussein Marjan told MPs that the exercise was not mandatory.

He said audit in the run-up to 2017 was mandatory, according to the Elections Act.

Mr Marjan further said that the commission was not to blame for the delay since it started the process way back before the deadline but could not get a qualified firm.

Currently, the commission is in the process of procuring an audit firm for the exercise.

But members of the Opiyo Wandayi-led committee said the exercise would be illegal and likely to be challenged in court.

“Would you concede that the commission would be in breach of the law if it conducts the audit anytime now? It would be illegal in terms of provision that it be done at least six months to the polls,” said Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo.

In response, Marjan said, “With all fairness, we started this process way before and the circumstances are beyond the commission.”

IEBC acting CEO Hussein Marjan before Public Accounts Committee (PAC), February 28, 2022. [David Njaaga, Standard]

He told the committee that the exercise is complicated and cannot be done internally by the commission.

“It requires data extraction and analysis. Internally, we may not be in a position that is why we are in the process of procuring an external audit firm. It is very important to do an audit to assure the country the register is credible,” the acting CEO said.

He explained that when the commission first advertised for the audit service, only one firm responded. The company later turned to be non-responsive forcing the commission to re-advertise.

“We advertised and we have closed the process and expect to get a firm to conduct the process,” said Marjan.

A source within the commission yesterday told The Standard that the commission would seek the legal opinion of Attorney General Paul Kihara on the way forward.

“It is a complicated affair that may require the legal advice of the AG. The commission will definitely seek a legal opinion before any further action,” said the source.

Elections Act, 2017 requires the commission to close voter registration before it can allow the Register of Voters to be opened for inspection by the public.

The purpose of the inspection is to allow voters to make corrections to their particulars. The commission is still conducting continuous voter registration.

In the run-up to the 2017 General Election, audit report by KPMG exposed at least 10 security loopholes that could have been exploited to influence the poll.