Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman Wafula Chebukati spoke like a man under siege when he met MPs yesterday to explain the status of the agency following recent resignation of three commissioners.
IEBC has been crippled following the trio’s exit, Chebukati publicly acknowledged, leaving him and two remaining commissioners unable to discharge any duty. “We are currently incapacitated and cannot pass policies or oversight the secretariat since we lack the requisite quorum,” Chebukati told the National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee.
Members were startled by revelations that the three commissioners are yet to hand in their resignation letters, almost a month since they announced their move at a press conference on April 16. Chebukati’s letter to relevant authorities to terminate the salaries of the commissioners, whom he says have absconded without officially resigning, have not been responded to.
He said the commission as currently constituted cannot pass any policy since it does not have the required quorum of five. “The commission has no capacity to pass policies. However, we do not plan to resign since our mandate given by the people of Kenya has not expired” said Chebukati.
He further said the commission would be summoning the three—Connie Maina, Paul Kurgat and Margaret Mwachanya—to explain their position. Chebukati who was accompanied by the two remaining commissioners, Abdi Yakub Guliye and Boya Molu, however, said the commission can still organise and plan for by-elections since most of the work is carried out by the secretariat.
But the secretariat itself is limping after Chebukati suspended the chief executive Ezra Chiloba. Asked by Kisumu West MP Olago Aluoch whether he was aware that the commission was in danger of facing litigations from losers of by-elections since it is not properly constituted, Chebukati said commissioners were not involved in planning of elections.
On the three commissioners, he said the trio had not formally written to him, nor to the President as procedure requires. “As long as my office is concerned, the three have not formally resigned, they are yet to write to the President or to my office. “Also, they are yet to surrender commission properties including vehicles which they were still in possession of,” Chebukati told the committee.
The commission chair said he had already written to the Head of the Civil Service to direct the three commissioners to surrender commission properties, with copies to the National Treasury, advising that the salaries of the three be stopped since they were no longer working for the commission.
Chebukati defended the suspension of Chiloba, saying the commission had strong grounds to send him home. When issuing their resignation notice, the three commissioners cited lack of confidence in Chebukati. They said under Chebukati’s leadership external players had encroached on the commission’s independence.
Resignation of the trio was the second one during the commission’s term, coming barely six months after former commissioner Roselyn Akombe threw in the towel a few days to the repeat presidential election of October 26. They said the electoral agency’s boardroom had turned into “a venue for peddling money, misinformation and ground for brewing mistrust.”
“For far too long and many times, the commission chair has failed to be the steady and stable hand that steers the ship in difficult times and gives direction when needed.
Instead, under his leadership the commission’s boardroom has become a venue for peddling money, misinformation, brewing mistrust and a space for scrambling for individual glory and credit,” they said in a statement.
They faulted the manner in which decisions were made at the commission including the suspension of Chiloba for three months.
“The institution has continued to be dysfunctional with arbitrary decision-making, leaking of internal documents to serve personal goals and pursuing of personal interests, all of which are against the laid down laws that govern the conduct of the commission leadership and staff,” the trio said.
They alleged that the vote to send Chiloba packing was done while some of the commissioners were out of the country. “Given this severe deterioration of confidence in the chair, we find our position as commissioners under his leadership no longer tenable,” the three said.
But it remained a puzzle that they are yet to hand in official quit letters, leaving Chebukati to wonder if they have resigned or absconded duty.