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Governance at heart of IEBC woes, says Ezra Chiloba

Embattled electoral commission chief executive Ezra Chiloba has broken his silence over his publicised fights with chairman Wafula Chebukati, terming his troubles at the agency as “cannibalism eating away from within”.

Mr Chiloba, who was suspended for the second time last month to pave the way for what Mr Chebukati said was the completion of a preliminary internal audit, says the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has a governance problem, which could cripple it if not addressed.

“The IEBC has a governance problem embedded in a weak institutional design. If there is still no clarity in roles between the commissioners and the secretariat, it does not matter who takes over from me as CEO, or who is appointed to serve as the commission chair,” Mr Chiloba told the Nation in an exclusive interview.

TWO CENTRES

Suggesting that the secretariat’s work has been hampered by the commissioners, Mr Chiloba, who joined the commission in January 2015 under the Issack Hassan-led team before Mr Chebukati’s entry, said the roles of the two sections of the commission need to be speedily redefined.

Unlike Mr Hassan before him, Mr Chebukati is said to have taken a more central role in running the secretariat’s affairs, a role that was previously left to the CEO, a scenario which Dr Roseline Akombe, who resigned as commissioner in October 2017, said had created a second centre of power.

“Ideally, the commissioners should insulate the secretariat from external attacks, allowing the secretariat to carry out its operational role. This strengthens the institution and allows the oversight role of the commissioners to be strategic and impactful; away from the current cannibalism we witness,” said Mr Chiloba, who had asked for the questions to be sent to him so he could send back the answers.

SOFT UNDERBELLY

Mr Chiloba has filed a contempt of court case against Mr Chebukati, who suspended him, after a vote by the plenary session, just hours after he was allowed by the court to report back to work.

The CEO was suspended in April in a decision that split the commission into two, and which was reported to be one of the reasons for the surprise resignations of commissioners Consolata Nkatha Maina, Paul Kurgat, and Margaret Mwachanya in April.

When he suspended Mr Chiloba, Mr Chebukati had the backing of commissioners Abdi Guliye, and Boya Molu, who have stood by him.

But it is Mr Chiloba’s case challenging his suspension, which later mutated to a contempt of court case against Mr Chebukati, that has exposed the soft underbelly of elections body, and the genesis of the problems between the two top election officials.

INTERNAL AUDIT

An internal audit by the IEBC, and which has been filed by Mr Chebukati in court, reveals that about Sh1 billion might have been lost in the October repeat presidential election after the August 8 poll was nullified.

Sh1.67 billion difference the audit shows that the comparative analysis of the cost of components for the supply, delivery, installation, testing and commissioning and support of the Kiems during the August 2017 General Election and provision for election technology support for the repeat poll indicated a Sh1.67 billion difference.

“Specifically, the cost of the repeat presidential election day support was almost twice that of the General Election, yet the repeat poll was not conducted in some constituencies while training costs went up by Sh78.9 million. There is no assurance that value for money was obtained,” the report states.

PROCUREMENT PLAN

But Mr Chiloba refused to discuss the contents of the audit, preferring to wait for another audit by the Office of the Auditor-General.

“Once the auditor-general is done, the audit report is presented in Parliament and necessary reactions and actions taken thereon. This is the standard procedure for an audit.

Commenting on the reported Sh1 billion loss would, therefore, not only be out of context, but also an interference with the auditor-general’s exercise,” Mr Chiloba said.

But he went on to say, “We had a preliminary report in April, 2018, of which I have a copy. There is no reference to the loss of a Sh1 billion. The second preliminary report is no different from the first.”

Mr Chiloba presented what he said was a well laid-out plan of how funds are budgeted for, and used, by the commission, adding that the commission approves the budget and procurement plan.

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