JOHN OYWA, The Standard, 13 August 2011

Kenyans wishing to be commissioners in the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission will face tough rules set by the selection panel.

Observers say prospective candidates, including commissioners at the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC), who have been eyeing the positions, may fall should the panel respect its own rules.

Sources at the Isaak Hassan-chaired IIEC told The Standard On Sunday that the rules have sent the serving commissioners back to the drawing board. The commission’s term is due to end.

The commissioners are in a precarious position following recent allegations of corruption and tribalism at the interim electoral body.

Last week IIEC chairman Hassan recalled Chief Electoral Officer James Oswago from a foreign trip to help anti-corruption officers investigate allegations of impropriety at the Anniversary Tower-based polls agency.

"The fact that the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission has been invited to investigate affairs of the commission and the allegations published in the media in recent times could haunt the commissioners," said a source familiar with commission matters.

Breaking news

Mr. Hassan and Oswago were meant to have been on the same trip to the Philippines, but the chairman and another commissioner, Davis Chirchir, returned from the airport to respond to breaking news of a scandal. Mr. Chirchir later went on the same trip.

Media reports have accused some of the commissioners of employing their relatives and ethicizing posting of regional and constituency co-coordinators, allegations they have denied.

On return the commissioners sacked Mr. Oswago’s personal assistant, whom they accused of writing to the Press, even though an Act of Parliament protects whistleblowers.

The suspended officer has since denied any wrongdoing. KACC has since written to the IIEC and are already investigating the allegations against some of the commissioners.

One of the conditions for candidates is they must never have been mentioned adversely in reports of commissions of inquiry or parliamentary committees.

The Ndung’u Land Report claims one of the commissioners is a beneficiary of land grab in the Mau Forest.

Applicants to the new polls body must also produce clearance certificates from heads of the Criminal Investigations Department, KACC, Higher Education Loans Board, Kenya Revenue Authority, Director of Public Prosecutions, and the Chief Executive Officers of their professional organizations.

KACC and CID clearance clauses are also likely to work against certain candidates. This means the current IIEC commissioners must pray that KACC absolves them from claims of alleged misuse of office by a whistleblower, whose claims were carried in a local daily.

Those eyeing the IEBC chairmanship will have to meet more stringent conditions. They must be persons qualified to hold the office of the judge of the Supreme Court and must have experience in governance, electoral matters, management, finance and public administration.

But even as they rolled out the tough conditions for the applicants after taking oath of office last week, members of the panel must been pondering over the tough task ahead.

They are aware picking officials who will preside over the country’s biggest election since independence would not be an uphill task.

The team they will pick will have to preside over the election of 290 MPs, 47 senators, 47 governors, 47 women representatives, pick 12 nominated MPs, and 2,000 county representatives. With memories of the 2007 post-election violence caused by a mismanaged electoral process still fresh, the panelists know Kenyans are watching their every step and statements.

Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo hinted at the hard task ahead after the seven-member panel was sworn-in.

"Kenyans have expressed their desire to have a credible electoral process. They yearn for an electoral process free from violence, intimidation, improper influence or corruption," said Mutula.

Political class

He added: "You will be harassed and labeled all kinds of names by the political class in an attempt to shape your thinking in a particular way. But you must not lose focus," he said.

Panel chairman Ekuru Aukot said his team was up to the task.

Joint Government Chief whip Jakoyo Midiwo said: "If followed, the regulations will help address issues raised in the Kreigler Report."

He added: "The nature of elections we shall have next year requires electoral commissioners of high integrity. Time when people sat in commissions to enrich themselves or serve their political interests is long gone. The functions of the IEBC will be strictly guided by the Constitution."

Kisumu Town West MP Olago-Aluoch said Kenyans expected the panel to carefully scrutinize the applicants.

"We expect them to go through an intensive integrity test to weed out those likely to serve the interest of other people. Those with political ambitions must not be hired," said Olago, who is a member of the Parliamentary Service Commission.

Chairman of the Centre for Multi-Party Democracy Justin Muturi said the tough rules set by the selection panel had given Kenyans hope they would get a credible elections body.

"The regulations are good because they not only hinges on one’s academic background but also his or her integrity. The next elections are going to be momentous, coming during the transition period," said Mr. Muturi

Muturi praised the clause that requires candidates to produce a clearance certificate from their professional organizations. "This requirement will block people who have had a controversial professional past," he noted.

The seven-member panel will short-list, interview and recruit chairman and eight other members of the commission. The first step would be to invite applications. Names of applicants and their qualifications will be published in the Kenya Gazette, two newspapers of national circulation, and in the Public Service Commission website.

Three persons

After short-listing and interviews, the panel shall select three persons qualified to be appointed chairperson and 13 others to be appointed as commissioners and shall then forward the names to the President for nomination of one person as chairman and eight others for appointment as members.

The President shall then forward the names to Parliament for approval. But this is not final. Parliament can reject any of the names upon which the Speaker shall notify the President.

The chairperson and the commissioners shall serve for six years.

It is anticipated commissioners who served in the IIEC and the defunct Andrew Legal-led Interim Independence Boundaries Commission will be among those lining up for the new positions.

Posted on Monday, August 15, 2011


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