IEBC: Sh2b bills, courts ruling holding us back

The electoral agency has cited pending bills amounting to more than Sh2 billion and the court ruling on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) as obstacles to preparations for next year’s elections.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) today told MPs that preparations have been adversely affected since budgetary provisions for subsequent financial years end up being used to settle outstanding bills.

The commission further said it risks having some key decisions challenged because of the Court of Appeal finding that it lacked requisite quorum. The Wafula Chebukati-led commission has since moved to the Supreme Court to challenge the judgement.

IEBC has been operating with only three commissioners for nearly three years since four resigned after the 2017 General Election. Last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed commissioners Juliana Cherer, Francis Wanderi, Irene Masit and Justus Nyang’aya to fill the slots.

It has also emerged that the commissioners differed with the legal team on whether to file the petition. Legal Affairs Director Michael Goa said the decision to move to the Supreme Court was not his brief. Mr Goa revealed that he told the Chebukati team to seek alternative views on the matter since the grounds cited by the two lower courts were the same.

“My honest view was to get an opinion from an independent advocate because according to me the grounds cited are still the same,” he said.

Appearing before the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) today, acting chief executive Hussein Marjan said the pending bills relate to the 2017 General Election and the repeat presidential poll. As at June 2019, the bills stood at Sh4.3 billion. The commission has since paid Sh2 billion.

He said most of the bills relate to legal fees to lawyers amounting to Sh1.3 billion. The lawyers acted for the commission in various election petitions while Sh700 million was owed to suppliers of ICT services.

Marjan blamed the delay to clear the bills on failure by the National Treasury to release funds.

“The commission confirms that inability to settle the pending bills has continued to adversely affect operations as the budgetary provisions for subsequent periods are used to settle the pending bills as first charge,” he said.

“The pending bills were accrued due to lack of exchequer for payments, which had been planned for and processed up to the internet banking level.”

The commission, he said, has made several efforts to secure the budgetary provision and the exchequer to facilitate settlement of the bills in addition to settling them as first charge.

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