How Ezra Chiloba troubles at IEBC yielded Sh32m

Communication of Authority of Kenya CEO Ezra Chiloba appearing before National Assembly Education of Julius Melly over the 2022 exam cheatings at Serena Hotel on July, 04, 2023. [Samson Wire, Standard]

Even after leaving his former job as the chief executive officer at the electoral commission, Ezra Chiloba always maintained his innocence over various allegations the opposition and his commission accused him of committing.

At the time, Raila Odinga was learning to let go of the 2017 election loss and his handshake with former President Uhuru Kenyatta was muzzling the opposition’s “Chiloba must go” calls.

They had identified Chiloba as responsible for the bungling of the presidential election, courtesy of a memo by the commission’s then chairperson Wafula Chebukati that sought answers into what went wrong.

But Chiloba would say he had no answers, believing that the election had been credible, despite the Supreme Court’s finding that it had been flawed. His exit from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in October 2018 came as no surprise. Months earlier, he had been suspended, a decision quashed by the courts, before he was suspended a second time.

There was enough blame to go around over who messed up the country’s most expensive election then, and Chebukati had made a strong case that it was Chiloba. So much so that he excluded him from team that would conduct the fresh poll.

Days after the Supreme Court nullified the presidential election they both oversaw, the pair’s relationship was irreparable, evidenced by their communication, only done through memos.

The two had been fighting since the recruitment of the Chebukati commission in January 2017. Chiloba had joined the commission two years earlier, amid a charged push by the opposition to oust the Issack Hassan-led commission. He watched how devoted the Raila-led Coalitions for Reforms and Democracy was to its cause of forcing IEBC commissioners out, and would pick lessons that would help him counter their offensive when he found himself in the crosshairs.

They would also help him checkmate Chebukati in their endless wars over the control of the IEBC, with its mouthwatering budget and tenders. In documents submitted to Parliament, Chiloba accused the IEBC chair of dictatorship and abuse of office, allocating tenders to companies associated with him.

But it was Chebukati who would prevail at first, sacking Chiloba after an audit report linked him with procurement irregularities. The report showed that election material the IEBC procured for the 2017 polls had their prices inflated, with Chebukati accusing the former CEO of being part of officials who made the elections expensive.

Chiloba twice declined to be questioned by the IEBC’s disciplinary committee over the audit queries, losing his job as a result. 

“You appear to have pre-determined the matter following reports that you have referred the matter to EACC and DPP, and you had already made a decision to dismiss me, but later rescinded it, which decision informed your re-assigning my official driver, terminating allowances due to security officers attached to me, and recalling of my official vehicles,” Chiloba responded to the invitations.

In later media interviews, he would insist he was made a scapegoat by the commission, stating that the 2017 election were largely free and fair despite the “minor errors” he said did not warrant the election’s voiding.

A former colleague was taken aback by the allegations against Chiloba when they first surfaced.

“When Chiloba joined the IEBC, he had come from the United Nations Development Programme, a body that deals in part with building capacity in election-related matters. Chiloba was meticulous and quite observant. In his time at the IEBC, I never saw signs of his lacking in integrity. I get surprised when I hear funny things around Chiloba’s name,” says the former manager at IEBC, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“It was either his way or the highway. And that is why that conflicted a lot with Chebukati. Both had that thing in them.”

Chiloba had the last laugh when the Employment and Labour Relations Court last year decided that his sacking from the IEBC was illegal, awarding him Sh14 million.

Other benefits included Sh3.3 million as his salary during his three-month suspension between August and October 2018 and Sh1.2 million as payment in lieu of his sacking notice.