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December 11, 2018

IEBC’s mediocrity wins over values

IEBC officials.Photo / JOHN CHESOLI
IEBC officials.Photo / JOHN CHESOLI

With the Supreme Court upholding the results of the repeat presidential election on October 26, it was a big sigh of relief for the IEBC, which was spared many embarrassing questions. Unfortunately it was a loss to the Kenyan voter and taxpayer, who lost the chance to interrogate the conduct of the institution, which was wanting on many counts.

It is said that nations fall when their systems become so corrupted that the decay is not even noticed — or the rot is written off as a normal part of politics. Kenya today exemplifies this. It is worrying that such a vital commission as the IEBC has been allowed to get away with so many mistakes, which it will not bother to account for now that the court “upheld” their work.

For instance, the number of registered voters announced by the IEBC differed from the gazetted number in the majority of the counties, while the turnout figures were always inconsistent.

And this is just a tip of the iceberg; the IEBC posted so many absurd “results” that to call it incompetent is very polite. Unfortunately, we are so inured to sloth and underperformance in the public sector that it never causes any outrage however dangerous it is to the country.

What does this sort of failure portend for our public institutions when mediocrity, dishonesty and ineptitude are sanctioned as long as they can wriggle through legal technicalities?

In both petitions at the Supreme Court, the IEBC was arrogantly cunning and mischievous in a manner that does not befit a national institution funded by taxpayers to preside over such a critical function.

And finally it even got away with contempt of court. No one has been held accountable for the huge expenses in the repeat polls and extravagant litigations that turned the IEBC into a gravy train for select lawyers.

With hindsight, it is quite apparent that these failures were designed to favour the incumbent government. It’s not surprising that the two parties had so much overlap of interest throughout the whole electioneering period.

Unfortunately, when a government benefits from stage-managed errors and technology failures; when a government works in cahoots with a public institution to circumvent democracy, it becomes beholden to the criminal and unethical process and it ceases to be a custodian of public morality. Such a government cannot champion professionalism or high standards of integrity in its operations and cannot enforce it even in the private sector.

If we condone imperfection in one sector of public service we lose the moral courage to demand it in another sector. If the Jubilee government is a beneficiary of rot at the IEBC, it cannot uphold high standards in health, security or education sectors.

That’s why tough talk about exam integrity was greeted with cynicism. That is why a father whose children have been caught in crime can comfortably describe it as normal because his sons drew “inspiration” from leaders!

What automatically follows is degradation of national values and standards, as our economy and institutions become less productive and competitive. In other words, the innumerable mistakes by the IEBC, which were upheld by the Supreme Court, represent triumph of official mediocrity and incompetence from which we may not recover soon.

We are slowly charting self-destruction by preferring trickery to ethical competition, hard work and democracy.

Ndung’u Njaga

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