IEBC investigates breach of its electronic systems

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati (centre) speaks at Bomas during the clearance of presidential candidates. [Samson Wire, Standard]

You have until tomorrow to confirm your voter registration details when the month-long voter verification exercise concludes.

That gives 24 hours to confirm your details, amid revelations that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) electronic system was breached, leading to illegal transfers of voters.

The IEBC has said it is investigating the matter, but did not reveal the scale of the illegal transfers, or the perpetrators of the said breach (whether it was an inside or external job). IEBC officials did not respond to queries on the scale of the breach or the perpetrators.

“The commission has conducted some preliminary analyses of the Register of Voters and noted that there could be some transfer of voters, which were effected without the supporting statutory forms,” the IEBC said in a May 25 internal memo from the Chief Executive Officer, signed by a Mr Obadiah Keitany.

In the memo, the CEO, Mr Marjan Hussein Marjan, directed all county election managers and senior officers to reverse transfers not supported by an application form or a copy of an identification document within 24 hours. “A report of this exercise must also be completed by all the Returning Officers immediately after the changes,” the memo reads.

In a statement to media, IEBC chair Mr Wafula Chebukati said the electoral body was investigating the matter. “The Commission is validating all the transfers effected with the duly filled transfer forms with a view of taking corrective action,” Mr Chebukati said.

On Monday, he told journalists that the voters affected “will be returned to where they were.”

IEBC electronic system was breached, leading to illegal transfers of voters. [File, Standard]

The statement suggested that the election officers had not done the reversals within the 24 hours that the CEO had instructed them to.

In yesterday’s statement, Mr Chebukati said the verification exercise that concludes tomorrow was the avenue through which voters should check their details. “The purpose of the exercise is to enable voters to verify (the) correctness of their details, including the polling stations, and to afford them an opportunity to correct any noted errors,” he said.

By May 13, up to 506,190 people had verified their details. The IEBC is yet to release data on the same.

Mr Mulle Musau, the national coordinator of the Elections Observation Group, yesterday said the breach raises “serious concerns” about the security of IEBC systems. “IEBC must assure the public of a thorough investigation (of) this breach and bring the culprits to book. They then must move to secure the current system and provide proof to the public,” Mr Musau said.

Constitutional lawyer Mr Bobby Mkangi said it was commendable that the IEBC was finally owning up to such breaches and not burying its head in the sand.

Mr Mkangi, however, said Kenyans would get disenfranchised by mistakes “that are not of their own making”, warning that the credibility of the August 9 General Election could be dented. “Depending on the patterns that result from the illegal transfers, these are some of the matters that could land in the Supreme Court as part of a presidential election petition,” he said.

The revelations come as IEBC is racing against time to meet statutory deadlines. It has to allow the public 30 days to verify their registration details, an exercise that must be done 60 days before the General Election. This exercise should be complete by June 9. 

Kenyans go to the polls on August 9. [File, Standard]

“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,” Section 8A of the Elections Act reads.

IEBC engaged KPMG in March, less than the statutory six months required. At the time, Mr Chebukati said the six-month timeline only applied to the 2017 General Election. “Anything less than six months would be a misnomer,” Mr Mkangi said, clarifying that the only discretionary bit was on engaging an audit firm.

IEBC yesterday said the audit on the register of voters was ongoing, promising to make public its report. It, however, did not say when.

There are indications that the delay in completing the audit may have been occasioned by challenges in obtaining the original raw certified principal register from a firm that previously supplied election equipment to IEBC. The equipment was used in voter registration, identification and transmission. “The recommendation from the report will be implemented in readiness for certification and publication of the register of voters in accordance with the law,” Chebukati said.

By the June 9 date, IEBC is supposed to have tested all the technology it will employ in voter registration, identification and transmission.

“For the purpose of results transmission during the General Election, the Commission will test and verify the technology in accordance with the law, on or before 9th June 2022,” Mr Chebukati added. He said IEBC had adhered to the 2017 Supreme Court ruling on conducting credible polls.

The testing also includes mapping for 3G network coverage.