A parliamentary committee now wants Sh72 million slashed from the Judiciary budget to finance the expenses incurred by the electoral commission during the three days of extended voter registration following a court order.
Kieni MP Kanini Kega, who chairs the Budget and Appropriations Committee (BAC) of the National Assembly, told the Nation that his committee will recommend to the House to vary the Judiciary budget during the consideration of the first supplementary budget for the 2021/22 financial year.
The move will likely rekindle the bad blood between the two arms of government, even as electoral experts questioned the decision of the court in the midst of a glaring poor turnout.
Documents presented to the budget committee by Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) acting CEO Marjan Hussein Marjan on Monday show that despite spending Sh72 million during the three days, the commission managed a paltry 100,000 new voters across the country.
This is an average of about 33,000 Kenyans turning up to register each day.
Yesterday, Mr Kega said that the expenditure, which has since passed as a pending bill, was not prudent use of public funds and that Judiciary should be made to pay for it.
“We will surely hold the Judiciary to account for the decisions they make. In doing so, the committee has no otherwise but will deduct what IEBC incurred as a result of the court order from the judiciary budget. (Judiciary) should be mindful of the decisions it makes,” said Mr Kega.
In the 2021/22 financial year, the Judiciary was allocated Sh17.92 billion.
Although the extra expenditure was not part of the money allocated to the commission by the National Assembly, it will nonetheless be paid on the strength of Article 223 of the constitution.
The Article provides that the national government may spend money that has not been appropriated but must seek post facto approval from the National Assembly within two months of the last withdrawal from the consolidated fund.
The High Court sitting in Eldoret on November 1 issued ex parte orders prohibiting IEBC from closing the 30-day national voter registration that was scheduled to end on November 2, for a week.
The court directive was to allow the hearing and determination of a petition filed in court.
This is notwithstanding that the commission had objected to the extension on account that it did not have sufficient funds.
But the argument by the petitioners was that the registration had not realised the six million new voters the commission had projected to register.
By the time the registration was scheduled to end, the commission had only realised 1.519 million new voters.
However, the court would later vacate its own order following submission by IEBC that it did not have funds.
Other than the periodical mass voter registration, the commission undertakes a continuous voter registration at the constituency offices.
As at December 19, 2019, the updated voter register shows that 19,678,885 Kenyans are registered as voters.
At the time the mass voter registration was ending, the commission had already incurred Sh1.28 billion in wages for the temporary clerks, logistics and direct expenses to suppliers, among others.
“We did not realise significant figures after the court forced us to extend the exercise for another three days,” Mr Marjan told the budget committee.
Ms Koki Muli, an expert in electoral matters, faulted the court for extending the voter registration period, well aware that few Kenyans were turning up to register as new voters.
“The IEBC should not have continued with the registration exercise just because the court has said so. With such low numbers, it was not possible to go ahead so as to save the country unnecessary expenditures,” said Ms Muli, a lecturer at South Eastern Kenya University.
“I wonder how Parliament will regularise such an expenditure. The returns are not commensurate with the expenditure,” she added.
According to Ms Muli, were such wanton expenditure to happen in a serious democracy, those responsible would have already resigned “but it appears that in Kenya, accountability means nothing”.