The referendum Bill and signatures in its support were yesterday handed to the electoral commission boss who gave indications it won’t all be smooth sailing.
Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairman Wafula Chebukati gave subtle terms for faster clearance of the initiative which, incidentally, is running out of time.
Chebukati asked for money for verification of the signatures, recognition of the fact that the staff will be working during Covid-19 period and attached the start of the exercise to National Treasury’s responsiveness.
He spoke as he received 4.4 million signatures from 47 counties.
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“We have put in place all the measures, including a committee to oversee the process. Once the National Treasury allocates us cash, we will begin the signature verification,” said Chebukati.
On November 18 when the BBI report came out, IEBC issued a statement opposing the proposal to have political parties appoint electoral commissioners. The proposal was later dropped in the final document that is now in the commission’s hands.
“We have received the signatures and our work starts from here, it will be in five phases,” said Chebukati.
He said after verification, they will hand over the Bill to the county assemblies, then move to the National Assembly, and from there they formulate the referendum question and conduct the vote at the tail end.
In late October, IEBC acting CEO Hussein Marjan said a plebiscite would cost the country Sh14 billion, but ODM leader Raila Odinga dismissed this.
Yesterday, BBI Secretariat’s co-chairs Junet Mohamed and Dennis Waweru gave Chebukati manual and digital signatures that they said had internally been verified.
“We have handed the signatures to IEBC and expect the process will not take long. We have gone through the signatures and cleaned them,” said Junet.
Initially, the secretariat had collected 5.2 million voters’ signatures to occasion the amendment of the 2010 Constitution but removed 800,000 as part of cleaning the lists before presenting them to the electoral commission.
“We are happy with the paperwork, IEBC will have easy work verifying the signatures,” said Waweru.
National Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Kanini Kega said Treasury had the latitude to allocate money to IEBC then seek approval of Parliament through a supplementary budget when the House resumes sittings.
“Article 223 (of the Constitution) allows Treasury to spend up to 10 per cent of the budget then seek approval. We, therefore, do not expect a delay in allocation of money to IEBC for the signature verification,” said Kega.
“After all it is not much money, it is only meant to employ clerks to verify the signatures.”
Junet said the train had left the station and there would be no more addition or subtraction of any clause in the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill, 2020, and therefore those calling for changes should hold their horses.
“We have not changed even a comma or full stop from the Bill. It’s just the way we received it when it was launched on November 25 at KICC,” he said.
There has been a push by Deputy President William Ruto and his allies that changes be made to the document before it is presented to the people for a vote later next year.
Ruto has called for a multiple-question referendum as opposed to the Yes and No that the BBI promoters are pushing for.
On Monday, it emerged that ODM was also toying with the idea of re-publishing the document to review the distribution of the 70 new constituencies, the creation of health commission and the controversial issue of parties picking commissioners to the IEBC.
But yesterday, Raila’s spokesman Dennis Onyango dismissed claims that his team was pushing for further amendments to the Bill.
Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot has dismissed the process, saying he will be surprised if BBI continues beyond Christmas.
“I will be very surprised if BBI lives to ‘eat Christmas’ in full health. With the submission of the signatures to IEBC, the real game begins. Forget those state manipulated functions. It will not survive the thorough scrutiny of the laws of our land on so many fronts,” Cheruiyot tweeted.