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Kenya Elections: Leaked memo exposes scandal at IEBC

By standardmedia
From left: IEBC Vice Chairperson Consolata Nkatha, Chairman Wafula Chebukati Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba during a press brief at IEBC offices in Nairobi . Photo: Willis Awandu, Standard
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The crisis at the electoral commission has deepened following a leaked memo detailing the irregularities in the bungled elections.

These include satellite phones worth Sh848 million for results transmission that never worked. The terse letter by Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairman Wafula Chebukati demanding answers from Chief Executive Ezra Chiloba on 12 concerns, majorly violations of electoral procedures in results transmission, escalated the fallout following the Supreme Court ruling that nullified the victory of President Uhuru Kenyatta in the August 8 poll.

The development piles pressure on the commission, already divided over Mr Chebukati’s decision to name a special team to oversee the October 17 repeat presidential election after sidelining Mr Chiloba and his colleagues. Four commissioners have protested at the unilateral decision by the chairman and a plenary meeting scheduled Thursday to resolve the stalemate did not address the agenda. Opposition chief Raila Odinga, who successfully petitioned the Supreme Court to order a fresh election due on October 17, Thursday said the leaked memo vindicated their position and reiterated that individuals who bungled the poll should be prosecuted.

“This memo from Chebukati to Chiloba now vindicates us. This forms part of what we took to the Supreme Court,” said Mr Raila. Avoid sideshows A union Thursday launched a fightback to save Chiloba and five other officials from being sacked, arguing that there was no basis to hound them out, yet the Supreme Court ruling did not apportion blame to specific individuals.

Avoid sideshows

A union Thursday launched a fightback to save Chiloba and five other officials from being sacked, arguing that there was no basis to hound them out, yet the Supreme Court ruling did not apportion blame to specific individuals.

The judge, however, declined to grant the Kenya Independent Commissions Workers Union’s suit at the Employment and Labour Relations Court immediate orders restraining IEBC from taking disciplinary action against the officials. Thursday Chiloba tweeted: “Let it be known that I have not instructed anyone to go to court on my behalf on any matter. We make progress if we avoid sideshows.” He later said that he and the commission staff were demanding an apology from the union.

In the memo, Chebukati puts Chiloba on the spot, demanding answers to questions on what went wrong with the Kenya Integrated Election Management System (KIEMS) results transmission. He questioned the expenditure of Sh848 million to purchase satellite phones that were never used. They were to be distributed to each constituency and county tallying centre. “Explain what occasioned the massive failure in the devices that would have been used in transmitting the results,” Chebukati wrote on Tuesday. He also questioned why 10,366 out of the 40,883 polling stations sent text results without accompanying forms 34A for over 4.6 million votes registered therein.

Chebukati also demanded an explanation on who created his username and password that was used to undertake more than 9,000 transactions in the KIEMS system without his knowledge. However, five IEBC commissioners disowned the Chebukati letter on the alleged 12 issues on the just concluded General Election saying it was not discussed by the commission.

“We wish to clarify that the contents of the said memo were not discussed.The Commissioners came to know of the memo through the media like everyone else,” read the joint statement. Vice chairperson Consalata Nkatha and commissioners Prof Yakub Guliye, Paul Kurgat, Boya Molu and Magret Mwachanya gave the statement.

It added: “A quick perusal of the memo shows that the allegations are based on some report or information that has not been brought to the attention of the Commission. Most of the issues raised are not factual and could easily mislead if taken out of context. However, the Secretariat is reviewing the issues and will prepare appropriate responses to be presented to the Commission Plenary.”

The commissioners however reassured the country that the Commission is in the process of preparing for a fresh presidential election to be held on October 17th. “Our commitment is to ensure that a credible process is held in line with the principles enunciated by the Supreme Court in its brief judgment. We invite all Kenyans to stand by the Commission as it carries out this mandate.

The IEBC contracted Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing to print the ballot papers and various statutory forms to be used in the presidential election and defined contractual terms and obligations but some of the forms lacked security features or serial numbers, in accordance with the contract terms. Questionable forms Insiders told The Standard that during Thursday’s meeting Chebukati ruled out having Al Ghurair deliver the forms for the October 17 election despite the fact that IEBC has a two-year active contract with the firm.

In the worst case scenario, he said the ballots might be printed locally because of time constraints or awarded to another reputable firm. He deferred the issue to today to allow further deliberations.

The chairman asked what happened to the printed forms that were meant to have various approved security features and names of candidates printed in accordance with ballot proofs and as validated by the due diligence teams the commission sent to Dubai. His memo was in response to an earlier one by Chiloba dated September 1 in which he appeared to contradict the chairman’s statement following the grave indictment by the Supreme Court on the conduct of election. Chebukati also questioned why ICT Director James Muhati ordered two of his officers - Paul Mugo and Bonface Wamae - to create his username and password without his knowledge or consent. 

“As a result this account was used to undertake 9,934 transactions. I direct that you take immediate action against these officers and report back by close of business today,” the memo dated Tuesday 5 reads. Chebukati tasked Chiloba to explain the transmission of results from 10,366 of the 40,883 polling stations without accompanying forms 34A. “Noting that these polling stations had 4,636,556 voters registered therein, the failure is contrary to the plenary decision directing that where a presiding officer was unable to transmit the results (text and form) from the polling station, they were required to move to the constituency tallying centre or use the satellite devices where the same was available.” 

He added: “Respond and avail an explanation as to why 595 polling stations failed and/or otherwise refused to send any results for the presidential election.” Prior to the polls, the chairman through a published notice had indicated that 11,155 polling stations out of the 40,883 did not have 3G or 4G network. On forms 34B, the chairman sought an explanation why the commission adopted and used a porous file server system to transmit the forms instead of creating and using a secure IP address, which made it easy for individuals to manage accounts on each other’s behalf, a clear security risk.

“Further respond and explain why the commission used the subject sever for day-to-day operation prior to the election and also why the staff in the ICT directorate used passwords different from their IEBC passwords.” Chiloba has further been tasked to explain why the KIEMS GPRS and geofencing features were switched off from August, 5, three days to the polls.

Chebukati wants Chiloba to explain why 682 polling stations had an equal number of rejected votes vis-à-vis the number of registered voters. “Additionally respond and explain why the commission experienced non-validation of individuals/voters after the KIEMS identification, essentially obfuscating the logs on voters cleared per polling station to vote. Respond on how many voters were subsequently allowed to vote by manual identification and why.” He added: “The commission had contracted Messrs MFI to avail printing and scanning machines across the country for use in the elections.

 Respond and explain on whether these machines were supplied, fit for purpose as contracted, and where they were availed and failed to work. If so, explain the failure.” Chebukati has also demanded that Chiloba explain the skewed allocation of KIEMS kits to Orange and Airtel as service providers in areas they did not have strong network as opposed to Safaricom. “Some of the KIEMS kits were assigned Orange and Airtel as their service providers whereas these two operators did not have coverage in those assigned areas. Worse still, Safaricom (a contracted operator) had the required coverage for these areas but was not considered.

Respond and explain why mapping out was not undertaken and these issues addressed or otherwise mitigated.” Efforts to get a comment from Chiloba on the matter were not successful. IEBC Communication Manager Andrew Limo Thursday said the commission met to discuss the budget for the repeat polls. Jubilee Party officials were set to meet IEBC Thursday. A meeting with NASA was postponed because the Opposition requested more time to analyse the response by Chebukati to their grievances.