Shake-up expected at electoral commission this week

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman Wafula Chebukati is this week expected to announce changes in the team that will manage the October 17 repeat election.

In the changes, Mr Chebukati will outline the roles of the Project Team and those of the Secretariat in the repeat presidential election to avoid clashing of tasks.

The changes will see members of the Project Team report to a steering committee comprising commissioners and headed by Mr Chebukati.

“Everyone is engrossed in realising tasks and making October 17 tenable. They (project team) were part of a three-day planning team involving county managers,” communications manager Andrew Limo told the Nation on Saturday.

Mr Chebukati recently named Deputy CEO Marjan Hussein Marjan project coordinator with Dr Sidney Namulungu as part of the team. Nancy Kariuki is to be in charge of logistics. The arrangement sees Bernard Misati Moseti heading training department as Albert Gogo assumes the helm of ICT, working directly under the chairman.

LEGAL SERVICES

The new arrangement would further see Silas Rotich become head of the national tallying centre as Salome Oyugi takes charge of legal services.

The latest move is said to be a product of a last weekend to contain divisions within the commission ahead of the repeat poll.

A source familiar with election preparations told the Nation that Mr Chebukati will first meet President Kenyatta’s and Nasa presidential candidate Raila Odinga’s teams early in the week before making the announcement.

As this happens, an argument in favour of changing the election date from October 17 is fast gaining currency with impeccable sources from the commission intimating that Safran Morpho — the firm contracted to run the results transmission system — has requested more time to reconfigure and upgrade their systems.

But officially, IEBC insists the date remains unchanged.

PROJECT TEAM

“There has not been any deliberations on the need to change the gazetted date of October 17,” Mr Limo sought to clarify.

Jubilee and Nasa sharply differed on Mr Chebukati’s move to name the Project Team with President Kenyatta’s camp insisting that the man in charge of Secretariat, commission CEO Ezra Chiloba, must not be unfairly victimised for the flaws that characterised last month’s polls.

Nasa has, however, insisted there will be no repeat election.

Mr Chiloba, his other deputy Betty Nyabuto, Director of Voter Registration and Elections Operations Immaculate Kasait, her deputy Mwaura Kamwati, the manager of operations, and head of ICT James Muhati were all left out of the Project Team with Mr Chebukati saying he wanted a new team to oversee the elections.

PRESSURE

Mr Chebukati is, however, said to have given in to pressure from fellow commissioners and will now be handing Mr Chiloba and some high ranking figures at the Secretariat “administrative roles” in the October 17 poll.

Jubilee Party, in a September 7 letter signed by its Secretary- General Raphael Tuju, appeared to defend Mr Chiloba, warning Mr Chebukati that he lacked powers to appoint the Project Team.

“Section 38 of the Election Act merely donates statutory authority for the issuance of a notice and does not confer upon you any power, in your capacity as the national retuning officer, to establish a project team for the presidential election,” he wrote.

Mr Tuju further claimed that some members of the team have ties with Nasa. Mr Chebukati had invoked his powers as the national returning officer when he made the announcement.

IEBC never responded to the letter. The “rehabilitation” of the embattled CEO will only see Nasa dig in further with its ultimatums given it has said Mr Chiloba and his team must go for the elections to happen. Mr Tuju went ahead and gave another set of names they also want sacked from the commission.

RESTORE CONFIDENCE

“Our primary goal is a properly conducted election and we believe this will not happen with the Secretariat as it is,” ODM director of elections Junet Mohamed said. ODM is one of the Nasa affiliated parties.

To restore confidence in its ability to deliver a free and fair election, the commission is in the process of identifying an international reputable firm to conduct a forensic audit of the servers and identify areas where the system might have been tampered with.

Nasa alleges the servers were hacked and results changed in favour of Mr Kenyatta but the Jubilee team insists that President Kenyatta won fair and square and cannot wait to reaffirm this in a repeat poll.

So entrenched were the divisions within IEBC that during the Naivasha retreat, Dr Wale Akinyemi, a renowned motivational speaker, had to be called in to preach the need to work as a team.

At the retreat, some commissioners are said to have tried to convince Mr Chiloba to proceed on annual leave and return when the tempers have calmed but he insisted that he could not afford to be away when such a momentous assignment is coming up.

At the same time, it has emerged IEBC commissioners may have been misled by the secretariat after Mr Odinga challenged his loss to Mr Kenyatta at the Supreme Court.

COMMISSIONERS

Mr Chebukati and commissioners were made to believe that the commission had secured all the forms 34Bs that were signed by the 290 returning officers across the country, a notion that was later proved wrong during the hearing. “It is on this basis that Counsel Paul Muite was confident on the first day that they would readily provide the forms when called upon to do so. The commissioners were sure this was the case only for the Secretariat to shock the world with fake forms,” a highly placed source at the commission told the Nation.

It became one of the immediate triggers of the protracted feuding between the commissioners and the secretariat, later climaxing into a leaked memo by Mr Chebukati in which he demanded an explanation on what could have gone wrong with the presidential poll whose outcome was voided by the Supreme Court.

However, Senior Counsel Paul Muite clarified he did not offer to provide the original forms but was simply agreeing to prayers of the petitioner (Mr Odinga) to have them presented for scrutiny.

“I then proceeded to talk about forms 34A which came from polling stations assuming someone had an issue with the other. There is so much misinformation being bandied about out there about this case,” he said on Saturday.

The senior counsel insists that the court erred in setting aside Mr Kenyatta’s win since the only way to rule out claims of hacking or rigging would have been to scrutinise all the forms 34A from the polling stations which his client had provided in court.

“If the Supreme Court was interested in finding out what each of the candidates had got, why not scrutinise forms 34A because forms 34B were aggregated from them,” he said.

RETURNING OFFICERS

It has also turned out that some of the returning officers had made more than one entry into the server, creating a challenge in identifying which of the forms containing results they had uploaded were genuine.

“There was total chaos inside the servers. A returning officer would key in more than one result into the system. It was difficult to now pinpoint the exact real result,” a member of the core team at the IEBC told the Sunday Nation.

 “The commission should be blamed for this because during training, we failed to make emphasis on key areas like signing off the forms, filling them in well. Instead, when we were training the returning officers, we delved on irrelevant areas.”

On Wednesday, Mr Chiloba defended the commission’s handling of the nullified August 8 presidential election, saying it did its best and the “minor errors” should not have led to its cancellation.

He said the servers were not hacked but at the same time admitted that “some of the officials” the agency hired for the polls might have committed errors.

“From the information I have, and the expert opinion, I can confidently say that the IEBC system was not hacked. And that there was no attempt to hack it,” he said.

RESULTS TRANSMISSION

Another source admitted that the commission had not adequately prepared in terms of training returning officers on results transmission.

“The commissioners only came to learn that something is amiss when the Supreme Court orders on accessing the servers came. That is when we were confronted with some of these glaring discrepancies and the reality that not all the forms were available.”

Perhaps the latest demonstration that the commission could still be working at cross-purposes was last week when it turned out that the secretariat had summoned 47 election managers from each of the counties for training in Nairobi without properly briefing the commissioners.

An insider said Mr Chebukati only came to know of the training at Lilian Towers on Wednesday yet it had begun on Sunday.

Mr Chiloba, however, insists that the commissioners were duly informed.

“They were even invited to give their presentations. You also need to look at the published list of activities which is in the public domain,” he said.

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