Details of how Jubilee top officials botched original plans for credible party primaries can now be revealed.
The party’s original plan churned out by the secretariat in February and seen by Sunday Standard sought to to have ballots covering 90 per cent of the registered voters in 2013 election, printed.
Under the original plan, only 18 “Jubilee stronghold” counties were to undertake nominations, with the rest encouraged to go the consensus route.
A total of 29,093,240 ballots were to be printed out for the five positions of Governor, Senator, Woman Rep, MCA and MP.
Total cost for printing at Sh8 per ballot with security features came to Sh232,745,920. If the National Election’s Board opted for ballots without security features, they were to be printed at Sh3 totaling to Sh87,279,720.
“When changes were made at the secretariat, decisions began to be reviewed and a lot of these things were either discarded or whittled down significantly,” a source at the secretariat told Sunday Standard.
Aspirants rue wasted millions
On the eve of the “ides of March”, party leadership unveiled a nine-member National Election Board (NEB) chaired by little known lawyer Polka Wanyonyi. The game of musical chairs began right then.
A few days later, the party discovered he was soaked up in myriad of disciplinary issues and booted him. He was replaced by another lawyer Lumatete Muchai, who only served for two days before he was moved to chair the disciplinary committee of the party.
Andrew Musangi took over the leadership of the board. On the same day Musangi took over the board, the affable Secretary General Veronica Maina was booted from the powerful post and moved to the amorphous post of deputy chair in charge of strategy. The head of the secretariat, Raphael Tuju, took over in double roles of Secretary General and Executive Director of the party. Tuju served these powerful positions for only nine days before former Judicial Service Commission official Winnie Guchu moved in as the Executive Director.
“These movements unsettled our plans a great deal at a time we were bogged down by a myriad of issues including the smart cards fiasco,” an ex-official of the secretariat who has since “moved on”, told Sunday Standard.
In the ensuing changes, ballots papers were reduced from 90 per cent of the 2013 voters to 50 per cent of the current voter estimates which were later scaled down to 40 per cent. The number of clerks originally planned at 6 per polling stations were reduced to 3.
Vehicles which were to be hired to distribute the materials from the county offices were also axed from the list, leaving a vacuum. A lot more drastic cuts were made on provisions for fuel, ballot boxes, projectors, stationary, transport personnel and coordinators among others. In general, the carefully planned total budget of Sh543,318,420 covering stationery, ballots, personnel, machines was scaled down. The reductions significantly changed the dynamics of the primaries as candidates of the five positions on offer whipped huge voter turn-outs in their areas.
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In Bomet County, the registered voters for the 2013 elections stood at 290,947. The ballots planned for the county therefore stood at 1.4 million minus the presidential ballots. This translates into approximately 2,700 ballots for the county’s 524 polling stations.
However, Bomet ended up getting approximately 500,000 ballot papers which if divided among the county’s polling stations comes to 1,000 ballots per polling station. Aspirants claimed only a quarter of this ended up arriving at polling stations on Friday morning.
In Embu County and under the original plan, Jubilee voters were entitled to 1.1 million ballots spread out in 571 polling stations in batches of approximately 1,900 ballots per polling station. In the revised plan, Embu got 40 per cent of that- 455,000 ballots at 700 per polling station. Again, aspirants led by Embu Governor Martin Wambora claimed only a quarter of that came through.
“It’s a joke and an insult to democracy. Only a quarter came. The rest were being marked and stuffed into the boxes overnight,” Wambora sensationally claimed yesterday. In Uasin Gishu, the original plan was to supply the county’s 467 polling stations with approximately 3,500 ballot papers. In the revised plan, they ended getting 660,000 ballots, 1,400 per polling station.
By yesterday morning however, most polling stations sampled by journalists had only 250 ballot papers each.
As early as February, Jubilee headquarters had already identified a number of challenges which if addressed would have averted yesterday’s fiasco.
If they used the party register, they would be bogged down by the slow activation of the smart cards. Had they used the IEBC register, they would have to go with the 2013 figures and lock out around 6 million newly registered voters. Up to this day, IEBC has not officially updated its register.
To print the millions of ballot papers, the printer required a minimum of 30 days ahead of the April 21 nomination date. This also means the printer had to leave about two weeks or so for transportation and distribution. Ideally, therefore, printing ought to have begun early or mid-March. Before then, all aspirants must have paid their nomination fees and submitted their paperwork. Most of these things were supposed to be done with authority of the elections board which had not been set up. “Without NEB, we can prepare for the above but we cannot communicate the plans officially,” an internal party communication dated February 10 said.
Possible solutions explored included using “any means possible to get the latest IEBC register in its raw format. True to their recommendation, an ex-IEBC commissioner with expertise in IT and affiliated to Deputy President William Ruto secured the raw register for the party. To add insult to the injury, top party officials with patronage of senior Jubilee leadership battled over the ballot printing tenders until the Office of DP reportedly took over to salvage the situation.
Yesterday, Ruto visited the party’s Pangani offices and held a two-hour crisis meeting with the secretariat and the elections board. At the meeting, the party resolved to print afresh ballot papers ahead of tomorrow’s exercise. It also released a list of counties to be covered in the next two days
Ruto then departed leaving officials led by vice chairman David Murathe and Tuju to address the media. “We may have hired one or two transport company but now we have hired more to ensure smooth distribution,” Tuju added.
The party says it will print ballot papers to cover about 8 million registered members and will be using the party register and the IEBC roll.