MISTRUST

IEBC, KNBS battle over control of crucial data

According to IEBC, exposing shape files to KNBS would greatly compromise the upcoming Boundaries Review

In Summary
  • Releasing shapefiles could expose data to political interference, IEBC argues 
  • The IEBC says it will fight to protect the integrity of its sensitive data form possible manipulation.
Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) Director General Zachary Mwangi during handing over of the second, third, and fourth volumes of the 2019 census results to Ukur Yatani at the National Treasury Building on Friday, February 21, 2020
Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) Director General Zachary Mwangi during handing over of the second, third, and fourth volumes of the 2019 census results to Ukur Yatani at the National Treasury Building on Friday, February 21, 2020
Image: WILFRED NYANGARESI

The electoral commission and the national statistics agency have clashed over the control of sensitive data that would inform the national boundaries review, the Star has established.

The push and pull between the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics means the boundaries review — that must be held by July 2021 —hangs in the balance.

The IEBC has maintains it is the only institution mandated by the Constitution to analyse the 2019 census data for purposes of generating a report on population distribution within political units.

However, the KNBS has reportedly refused to hand over the data and wants to be the one to populate the information on electoral units.

This move, according to the IEBC, would expose its data to possible manipulation of the population distributed in electoral units, compromising the integrity of the boundaries review.

The IEBC had last year November asked for the detailed 2019 census data from KNBS based on the country's administrative units — sub-locations, locations, divisions and subcounties.

The data would enable the IEBC to then analyse the information and populate it into political boundaries contained its shapefiles.

However, the KNBS, which is mandated to conduct national population housing census, has, in turn, asked the IEBC to give it technical boundaries information, professionally referred to as shapefiles to populate the data.

The IEBC on November 8, 2019 received a request from KNBS for shapefiles to enable it analyse census data and produce a basic report on population distribution by political units.

"This is an exercise that the commission is expected to do as part of its mandate in the boundaries delimitation exercise,” IEBC protested in a strongly worded statement.

The current shapefiles were generated by the IEBC in the 2012 boundaries review and are considered as highly sensitive for the upcoming boundaries review.

Shapefiles technically haves a geospatial vector format that contains geographical information that defines various attributes such as electoral boundaries or administrative units.

The IEBC has maintained it will not allow KNBS access to its highly guarded information on electoral boundaries-technically referred to as shapefiles as that would be untenable.

The Wafula Chebukati-led commission now argues that exposing the information to third parties could compromise the integrity of the boundaries review.

“Nevertheless, the commission is ready to provide the KNBS with political boundaries maps as done before but not the shapefiles,”Chebukati said in a statement.

According to the Commission, allowing the Zachary Mwangi-led agency access data on total population and registered voters in every electoral unit would amount to abdicating its mandate to conduct the boundaries review.

“The commission is committed to protecting the integrity of the impending and highly sensitive boundary delimitation process that is its express constitutional mandate,” IEBC protested.

But according to KNBS, the information the IEBC was to avail would enable them to analyse census data and to produce a basic report on population distribution by political units.

The poll agency is required in law to conclude the process 12 months to the 2022 General Election for the changes in constituency and ward boundaries to apply.

In a statement released on February 14, Chebukati had noted that the existing boundaries, having been gazetted on March 7, 2012, were due for a review in March 2020.

The IEBC can review “the number, names, and boundaries of wards periodically”— within eight years and not more than 12 years — but cannot add the number of constituencies or alter the boundaries of counties.