Electoral commission CEO Ezra Chiloba has accused the commission chairman of engaging in a witch-hunt after he was suspended last week.
Mr Chiloba went to court yesterday seeking orders to quash the memo that sent him on compulsory leave and to compel the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to reinstate him as the chief executive officer.
In a case filed at the Employment and Labour Relations Court, which reveals deep divisions at the IEBC, he accuses Chairman Wafula Chebukati of plotting his removal from office.
Through lawyer Andrew Wandabwa, Chiloba wants the court to issue an injunction restraining the commission or any other person acting on its behalf from sending him on compulsory leave, suspending or sacking him.
He argues that the decision to send him home was hastily arrived at by three commissioners without affording him an opportunity to defend himself.
“The purported decision was arrived at without the requisite quorum in terms of the number of commissioners required for the commission to transact business as envisaged in the second schedule to the IEBC Act.”
Chiloba, who has listed Mr Chebukati as the first respondent together with five commissioners and IEBC, argued that the chairman was trying to undertake the role reserved for the secretariat.
“My understanding is that the secretariat plays a separate though complementary role from that of the commissioners. I believe that by reason of this state of affairs tensions ensued between the secretariat and the chairman,” he said.
Chiloba questioned why the chairman carried out his own audit without informing colleagues, saying he had been warned by a commissioner that Chebukati was on a witch-hunting mission.
According to the court documents, the commission met on March 16 and agreed on a calendar of meetings. Margaret Mwachanya said she was travelling to Dubai in the first week of April. Chebukati then rescheduled a plenary meeting from April 12 to April 6 to take advantage of her absence.
Vice chairperson Connie Maina and Commissioner Paul Kurgat walked out of the plenary meeting, leaving behind Chebukati, Abdi Guliye and Boya Molu to pass the resolution to kick the CEO out.
Chiloba said while he was on leave on December 21, 2017, the chairman wrote to the acting CEO demanding a report to be submitted to him before or on January 5, 2018, which was the date he was reporting back to work.
On January 15, Mr Guliye called him to his office and told him that while he was away, Chebukati might have been trying to dig some information about him.
“Guliye informed me that the chairman was determined to get me out; something that could adversely affect my career as a young professional. Accordingly, Guliye advised me to take another long leave of at least 30 days after which he believed they would have resolved the matter.”
“On or about 22nd January 2018, I invited the chairman to an out-of-office meeting at which we discussed at length the affairs of the commission and its future. One of the issues discussed at the meeting was the need for full co-operation with the Auditor General’s office during the audit of the election-related expenditures,” said Chiloba.
He said he had tried unsuccessfully to mend relations with the chairman.
“That at most times whenever these differences have arisen, I have gone out of my way to even informally discuss with the chairman and any concerned commissioner in an effort to establish a cordial working relationship. Unfortunately, I have never felt that the same is replicated.”