CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES

Thirdway Alliance accuses IEBC of sitting on Punguza Mizigo Bill

Election agency maintained it needs a budget for the verification process

In Summary

• The Alliance, through an initiative dubbed Punguza Mizigo is seeking for a Constitutional review to reduce the burden and cost of governance currently being borne by Kenyan taxpayers.

• The first phase of Punguza Mizigo started in April 2018.

IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati receives the "Punguza Mizigo" Bill from Thirdway Alliance leader Ekuru Aukot at Anniversary Towers on February 28
CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES: IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati receives the "Punguza Mizigo" Bill from Thirdway Alliance leader Ekuru Aukot at Anniversary Towers on February 28
Image: COURTESY

Thirdway Alliance has accused the IEBC of delaying verification results or feedback on their constitutional amendment bill.

Secretary General Fredrick Okango on Thursday said the bill was submitted early this year but IEBC has not responded as per their promise. Okango said the IEC had promised to respond in a month.

“A month ago, ThirdWay Alliance submitted 1.4 million signatures to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission calling for a constitutional referendum, but they have remained mum on the issue,” Okango told the Star on the phone.

 

The Alliance, through an initiative dubbed Punguza Mizigo is seeking for a Constitutional review to reduce the burden and cost of governance currently being borne by Kenyan taxpayers.

“The Punguza Mizigo proposed constitutional amendments, will save Kenyans over Sh3.78 trillion, which is higher than the current national annual budget. With this money, we will be able to meet the demands of nurses, teachers and doctors and even create jobs for our growing youth population,” read a statement from the Thirdway Alliance.

“Since we submitted the Bill Punguza Mizigo (Constitution Amendment) 2019 on February 28, together with the 1.4 million signatures, the IEBC promised to get back to us with the verification results or feedback in one month’s time. We haven’t heard from them and they are yet to respond to our letter,” Okango said.

In a letter to IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati, which was received on April 1, Thirdaway says that the commission in the past has verified signatures in similar processing without additional budgets as claimed by the agency.

“We do recall that in your speech during the presentation, you wisely advised that the verification exercise will take no more than a month as we had submitted all our signatures in soft copy, making it easy for the commission to run the data against your system,” the letter reads in part.

“We are equally concerned at remarks associated with both the Commission and the JLAC [Justice and Legal Affairs Committee] that for a referendum to proceed, there is a need for comprehensive referendum law. We hope that those remarks are not intended to sabotage our process which took over 1 ear to finalize,” the letter signed by national chairman Miruru Waweru says.

When reached for comment, IEBC acknowledged receipt of the letter and said it will respond accordingly. The agency, however, maintained they needed a budget for the verification. 

 

The first phase of Punguza Mizigo started in April 2018.

Punguza Mizigo initiative, Okango said, seeks to strengthen the Senate and the National Assembly to reduce the cost of running Parliament.

It also focuses on devolution by taking services to the people’s doorsteps and putting an end to gender imbalance and inequality. In regards to gender parity, Thirdway proposes the election of one man and one woman to the National Assembly.

The popular initiative also calls for the reduction of the public wage bill and recurrent expenditure, enforcing integrity and reducing the cost of running elections and registration of voters. 

The initiative also seeks to “demystify the presidency and end a culture of electoral violence associated with the power of incumbency”.

In an attempt to address over-representation and to reduce the number of MPs from the current 416 to 147 by, the initiative proposes the abolishment of the 290 constituencies and instead using each of the 47 counties as a single constituency for purposes of parliamentary election to the Senate and the National Assembly.

Okango said they suspect there could be external pressure on the IEBC "so as not to scuttle the Building Bridges Initiative".

This is, however, not the first time there has been a push to reduce the number of MPs.

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria in 2016 launched what he called the Punguza Mzigo referendum campaign. His clarion call was to have the Senate, the woman representative and all the nominated MCAs slots scrapped through the proposed constitutional amendments.

It is also not the first instance that the electoral agency is being accused of delaying verification of signatures.

In March 2016, the then Cord Coalition stormed IEBC offices to press for the completion of the verification process of its Okoa Kenya signatures.

Former MP Jakoyo Midiwo then said the IEBC did not get back to Cord within a reasonable time after receiving the Okoa Kenya signatures, thereby contravening the constitutional timelines.

It also came under sustained pressure and protests after the then Issack Hassan-led commission rejected the Okoa Kenya petition for a referendum after many of the million-plus signatures were disqualified.