Raila, IEBC dig in as referendum row rages

ODM leader Raila Odinga during the launch of the Building Bridges Initiative report at Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi on October 26, 2020.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati came out fighting, saying Sh14 billion is reasonable, going by past experiences in the management of elections.
  • Mr Chebukati said the plebiscite in 2021 will cost Sh13.7 billion.

The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) yesterday said the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) should not demand Sh14 billion for the anticipated referendum on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) next year, insisting that Sh2 billion is enough.

ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna said anything more than Sh2 billion would be waste of public money.

Mr Sifuna’s statement came after ODM leader Raila Odinga earlier in the week said no more than Sh2 billion is needed for the public vote.

Later, IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati came out fighting, saying Sh14 billion is reasonable, going by past experiences in the management of elections.

“The commission’s attention has been drawn to a statement by Raila Odinga in his Twitter handle to the effect that the upcoming referendum cannot cost Sh14 billion and that elections have become one of the major avenues for ripping off the country,” the IEBC chief said.

Sh14 billion

“The commission considers the statement very unfortunate and lacks objectivity and understanding of the conduct of elections. The estimated figure of Sh14 billion given to the (National Assembly) Public Accounts Committee...was informed by historical data and previous experience in managing elections.”

He added that the referendum in 2010 cost the country Sh10 billion while the repeat presidential election in October 2017 gulped Sh11.9 billion.

Mr Chebukati said the plebiscite in 2021 will cost Sh13.7 billion.

 “IEBC has factored major cost drivers such as technology, ballot papers, temporary poll officials and security,” he said.

“The the cost of conducting elections under Covid-19 environment is included. The commission will prepare a detailed budget once it receives notification to conduct a referendum and such a budget will be presented to relevant institutions for scrutiny and approval.”

Mr Chebukati added that IEBC would continue to operate independently and not be subject to the direction or control by any person or authority.

Mr Sifuna cited the February 2019 PAC report, which showed massive wastage of funds.

According to the parliamentary report, the commission awarded a contract for BVR IBM Server infrastructure maintenance and KIEMS infrastructure security monitoring solutions at a cost of Sh452 million. It also showed that 1,694,400 security seals valued at Sh19.58 million were bought but never used.

According to the report, some 149,640.5GB data bundles valued at Sh127.6 million were purchased but never utilised while data valued at Sh1.85 billion was wasted after failure to factor in the correct technical specification during procurement.

A staggering Sh273.6 million was spent on buying an Oracle database and security solution which again was not used.

Out of the 31,928 additional SIM cards bought for repeat presidential election, only 23,261 were received and distributed to constituencies. The cards had been bought for Sh4,463,500.

IEBC was also faulted for incurring legal fees amounting to Sh202 million, which ODM blames on incompetence.

Ledger balances

IEBC’s account balances reflected in the financial statements for the year ended June 30, 2017 differed with the ledger balances with variances totalling Sh631,972,981. No explanation was given.

ODM says if the 2017 presidential rerun was conducted “without profligacy and stealing”, an estimated Sh9.1 billion would have been saved.

Mr Sifuna added that the recently launched BBI report seeks to amend such irregularities, insisting that the IEBC leadership should be “cleansed”.

“The BBI aims at reforming the commission once and for all. As one of the institutions whose lethargy, incompetence and inertia make it complicit in the shedding of blood, we would have expected the current team to hang its head in shame and await judgment day,” he said.

The party demanded to know why its leader is being accused of being part of a team that came up with the cost of the 2010 referendum.

“It is at this time of reforms that we shall make everything right. Mr Odinga has never worked for IEBC,” Mr Sifuna said.