FIGHTING OUSTER

I support filling IEBC jobs without Uhuru nod - Chebukati

MPs want law amended which requires President to declare vacancies within seven days

In Summary

• Commission is duly constituted but cannot declare presidential election or review boundaries.

• Chebukati also supports proposal to cut commissioners from seven to five.

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati. Photo/Monicah Mwangi
IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati. Photo/Monicah Mwangi

IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati has backed a proposal by MPs to have vacancies at the commission filled without a declaration by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

He said this will help the commission engage new commissioners to end quorum hitches that have affected the electoral body’s decision making.

Much as the courts reasoned that the commission is duly constituted, it is argued there are some decisions like declaring a presidential election or review of boundaries that cannot be made.

Chebukati welcomed the proposal to have the IEBC Act amended to replace Section 7 of the law which requires the President to declare the vacancies within seven days.

The proposals was floated by Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma who wanted the phrase ‘existence of a vacancy’  replaced with ‘occurrence of a vacancy’.

“There is a way in which the fact the president has not gazetted the current vacancies has put us in the situation of quorum that this committee seeks to intervene on,” the lawmaker said.

The IEBC boss said the court ruled that quorum is a moving target which depends on the number of officers in place.

He said the law on filling vacancies should be similar to that which posits that a bill automatically becomes law if the president doesn’t give any reservations within seven days of its enactment.

“This was an issue when the commissioners resigned. The court in three cases came up with pronouncements in petition 212/2018; petition 165/2018 that quorum is a moving target.

“We have operated from the time the four left and have been carrying out our mandate without any fear,” the IEBC chair said.

 

The Katiba Institute’s case number 548/2017 declared that sections of the IEBC Act which deal with quorum are unconstitutional.

Chebukati further welcomed the proposal to have the number of commissioners reduced from the current seven to five.

He said a smaller number, as is the current case, has enabled the agency hold meetings and reach decisions fast.

The poll agency boss further backed a proposal that the President be sent names, so that the head of state does ‘cherry pick’ a chairman.

The matters were raised as members of the Justice and Legal Affairs committee sought his views on the best way to deal with the quorum question at the polls agency.

The IEBC is operating without four commissioners following the exit of vice chairperson Consolata Nkatha, Margaret Akombe, Paul Kurgat, and Roselyne Akombe.

On Thursday, the committee chaired by Baringo North MP William Cheptumo sought the IEBC’s take on the process to constitute a panel for filling the positions.

MPs Adan Haji Yusuf (Mandera West), Jenifer Shamala (nominated), Kamuti Mwamwakale (Rabai), and Olago Aluoch (Kisumu West) were present.

The IEBC (Amendment) Bill (No 3), 2019 seeks to replace the current selection team – dominated by religious leaders, to replace it with one that incorporates key agencies.

Cheptumo’s proposes that the selection panel comprises 11 persons being two men and two women nominated by the Parliamentary Service Commission, one person by Public Service Commission, and one person nominated by the office of the Attorney General.

Others proposed to be in the panel are one nominee each from the EACC, LSK, NGEC, Interreligious Council, and Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.

Olago said the view of the committee is that the IEBC has a lacuna which cannot let it make key decisions, hence the proposed amendment to the IEBC Act.