Why names of dead could still end up on electoral register

As it is, an audit has said, there is no law in place that interconnects the State agencies that hold critical records.

Hundreds or thousands of dead voters could still end up in the principal electoral register that will be used in this year’s General Election due to legal and institutional challenges in the registration of births and deaths and issuance of documents.

The audit says that the institutions established under the Kenya Citizens and Foreign Nationals Management Service Act to implement policies, laws and any other matter relating to citizenship, immigration, births and deaths, identification and registration of persons, issuance of identification and travel documents, foreign nationals management and creation and maintenance of a comprehensive national population register, largely work in isolation.

The main institutions under the Act are the National Registration Bureau, the Directorate of Immigration, the Civil Registration Department and the Department of Refugee Affairs.

Lack of a linkage between these institutions, noted KPMG, the multinational which carried out the audit of the voters’ register, “may be impacting on the accuracy and credibility of the register of voters.”

‘BE RATIONALISED’

“The whole area of registration of persons — from birth, to IDs, passports, voters, to registration of deaths — needs to be rationalised to include what we are suggesting to be a unique identifier that you can use to trace somebody from the register of births to the register of deaths, which currently does not exist and which makes the (audit) exercise somewhat difficult,” KPMG CEO Josphat Mwaura noted on Friday as his company submitted its report of the audit of the voters’ register.

According to the audit, as many as a million dead voters are in the register held by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

“There are a number of issues outside the control of IEBC that will be addressed by legal measures as well as institutional coordination and collaboration to improve accuracy of the register. Key among these is improvement in coverage and quality of data in death registration, liaison between IEBC and NRB and Directorate of Immigration, as well as formal processes to give effect to the criteria for disqualification from registration as a voter in accordance with Article 83 of the Constitution. In addition, IEBC needs to provide clarification to those voters who may have registered using passports which have since expired,” KPMG said among its recommendations to IEBC.

A CHALLENGE

Aside from the missing link among the agencies, the audit says that the reporting of deaths in Kenyans remains a challenge, making it difficult for the concerned agencies to take action.

“KPMG have also noted that data relating to deceased persons is both incomplete due to low coverage of death registration, and inaccurate, as in some cases the full details of deceased persons are not provided, or appear to be inaccurate. In addition, there are cases where the ID number indicated as belonging to the deceased person may actually belong to the person who reported the death. It is, therefore, essential that even after confirming a match of the ID number, that other details like name be verified to avoid disenfranchising some voters,” commission chairman Wafula Chebukati and CEO Ezra Chiloba said in a joint statement.

Mr Mwaura attributed the failure to report deaths to the authorities to geographical, cultural and religious hindrances.

From the audit, failure to report deaths is made clear by the figures held by CRS.

Whereas CRS puts the expected number of deaths between 2012 and 2016 at 2.4 million, only 970,895 are registered, leaving 1.4 million unreported and therefore unregistered.

Meanwhile, the law is also silent on what Parliament is expected to do with the audit report that will be submitted to them.

NOT CLEAR

The Election Laws (Amendment) Act only states that IEBC “shall, within 14 days of receipt of the report under subsection (4), submit the report to the National Assembly and the Senate.”

It is not clear whether Parliament can propose amendments or develop directives on the implementation of the audit report.

The silence on the provision is even more confusing since IEBC will have started implementing the report even before Parliament is through with it.

“There is no relationship between submission of the report to Parliament and implementation of the recommendations by IEBC,” Mr Chiloba said during the launch of the audit report on Friday.

Meanwhile, ODM leaders in Nyanza have cautioned the electoral agency against any attempt to strike off names of voters from the register for failing to verify their registration status.

The leaders, who included Kisumu Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o, deputy governor Ruth Odinga, MPs Fred Outa (Nyando) and James Nyikal (Seme) said it was not within the IEBC’s mandate to remove voters’ names from the register. They said there are clear procedures to verify names of those who died after registration before their names are struck off.

Prof Nyong’o noted that removal of voters’ names from the register because they failed to verify their status was not only against the Constitution but also against the Elections Act. He added that whereas they encourage people to verify their details, IEBC should bear the responsibility of ensuring the credibility of the register.

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