Next IEBC Commissioners must have ICT, accounting background - Report

An Independent Election and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) official adorning a face shield and hand gloves uses the Kems kit

An Independent Election and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) official uses the Kems kit to read the fingerprints of a voter.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • A report by the National Assembly's Justice and Legal Affairs Committee has proposed the additional qualifications for the next batch of commissioners to help improve the management of elections.

The next commissioners of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will be expected to have proven experience in either information communication and technology (ICT) or accounting as additional qualifications for the job if a proposal by a House team is approved.

A report by the National Assembly's Justice and Legal Affairs Committee has proposed the additional qualifications for the next batch of commissioners to help improve the management of elections.

However, the commissioners do not have to be lawyers, as any degree from a recognised university will be required, in addition to ICT and accounting, if MPs approve the report with the new changes.

"The proposed additional experience in information and communication technology and accounting is consistent with the various functions of the commission, which include the use of technology and the prudent procurement of goods and services related to the conduct of elections," the report said.

Commenting on the Bill during Tuesday night's debate, the Committee Chairman George Murugara said the experience in ICT and accounting will come in handy for commissioners during elections.

"We don't want people to go there and plead ignorance that they didn't know or never understood what was happening," Mr Murugara said.

According to Section 6(2) of the IEBC Act, 2011, a person is qualified for appointment as a member of the commission if he or she holds a degree from a recognised university, has demonstrated relevant experience in any of the following fields: electoral affairs, management, finance, governance, public administration, law and meets the requirements of Chapter Six of the Constitution.

Although the Bill had also proposed that the Chairperson of the Commission, in addition to having qualifications equivalent to those of a High Court Judge, should also have additional qualifications in accounting and ICT, the Committee Report is silent on the additional requirements.

The House can either accept the committee's report or reject it and proceed with the original provisions of the Bill.

The lawmakers argued that the country's elections, which are ICT-driven, require a person with knowledge of accounting.

"Our elections are now technology driven and therefore we found it necessary that the commissioners to be nominated have the requisite knowledge in ICT," said Majority Leader Kimani Ichung'wah.
We do not need to fight against numbers or tallying. Tallying is a summation of numbers and that is why we need accountants to make sure that one plus two is not three because lawyers will also argue that one plus one is not necessarily three," said Mr Ichung'wah.

The committee has also suggested that the next IEBC chief executive officer should serve a fixed six-year non-renewable term just like commissioners, as opposed to the current provision where the CEO serves for five years.

"The committee noted that it may be necessary to increase the term of office of the secretary to a non-renewable term of six years to ensure that the secretary understands all that is expected in the performance of his or her duties and to enhance his or her competence in the role," the committee report said.

The Electoral Commission had opposed the idea of reducing the term of office of the commission's secretary from the current five years to five, saying it could pose a challenge to the work of the commission.

"Shortening the tenure denies IEBC the benefits of the human capital invested in the position and suffers from experience drain due to the shortened period," IEBC CEO Hussein Marjan told MPs.

The commission told MPs that if the current five-year term of the secretary cannot be sustained, then it should be reviewed to a single term of six years.

"Our proposal is to maintain the current term of office of the commission and to identify areas for improvement and conduct ongoing reviews to improve the governance structure and operating framework," Mr Marjan told the committee.

The committee has also proposed that the current selection panel, chaired by Nelson Makanda, be sent home to pave way for a new team to recruit the next commissioners. The team will, however, be eligible to reapply for their positions once they are declared vacant.

"The panel existing immediately after the enactment of this Act shall cease to exist but a person who has served as a member of that selection panel may be nominated as a member of the selection panel appointed under this Act," reads the bill.

The panel, in its memorandum to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs of the National Assembly and the Senate, which last conducted public participation, had demanded full payment of its dues in the event of its dissolution.

"All members of the selection panel existing immediately at the commencement of this Act shall be fully compensated for the work they have done from the commencement of the swearing in of the section panel until the dissolution of the panel by the enactment of this Act," the panel's memoranda to the committee said.