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Uncertainty looms over IEBC amid intense infighting

PD team @PeopleDailyKe

Intrigues, eye-popping happenings and questions continue to pile up within the Independent and Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) even as chairman Wafula Chebukati yesterday maintained that there is “no room for former commissioners.”

Chebukati’s bid to block the return of his erstwhile deputy Connie Nkatha Maina and commissioners Margaret Mwachanya and Paul Kurgat coincided with a case filed in court seeking to bar the trio from resuming their duties. 

He said the commissioners had resigned and there was no basis for them to return to the commission as they were ineligible for re-appointment.

Chebukati declined to meet Mwachanya and Nkatha, who had turned up at the Anniversary Towers officers and instead told them to write to him spelling out why they were seeking his audience. 

In another twist of events surrounding the commissioners, activist Okiya Omtatah made an application at the High Court seeking to bar them    from resuming office.

The curtains first went up on the drama with early April declaration of resignation by the three commissioners. 

Compounding the matter was whether due process was followed since the appointing authority, President Uhuru Kenyatta is yet to indicate whether or not he had received  communication to that effect despite the fact that the three had stated that they had written to the President through Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua informing him of the resignations.

People Daily in yet another puzzling development established the three are still on   government payroll, are receiving  allowances and other perks they were earning before their                                                            purported resignation. The plethora of questions boil down to this;    Who is fooling who over the resignation?

Omtatah petitioned the court to restrain the three from conducting themselves “or act in any way whatsoever” as commissioners of IEBC.

The three declared under oath they had formally resigned from being commissioners of the IEBC by writing to the President on 16th April 2018, had handed over their offices, Omtatah   said and added;

“The Hon Lady Justice W A Okwany deliberately left it to this Court to determine matters concerning the resignations of the three respondents.” 

Omtatah said the three commissioners were bound by a code conduct enshrined in the Constitution which they violated by their gross misconduct.

“Having resigned from office, the respondents have served their term and are ineligible to be re-appointed as IEBC commissioners given that Article 250 (6) (a) of the Constitution provides that a member of a commission shall be appointed for a single term of six years and is not eligible for re-appointment. The six-year term ended with the resignations,” he argued.

At Anniversary Towers, Chebukati said their comeback was a show of mischief.

“I did not see them but I asked them to go and put in writing what they want to see me about and if and when they do so then we shall address the issues,” he said.

Chebukati, however, maintained IEBC had no space for  them: “IEBC does not have offices for former commissioners. You cannot come here and say I am a former commissioner give me space to work from here. And so as far as we are concerned, they are not supposed to be working here and this has to be made very clearly to the country that there is no place for former commissioners in the IEBC,” Chebukati said.

He confirmed he had changed the door locks to their offices after realising they had not surrendered the keys, and used them to access the offices on Friday.

However, sources at the National Treasury revealed the salaries and other entitlements are being paid in full besides enjoying the insurance scheme under IEBC. They also  have retained staff badges and vehicles.

The commissioners’ move is linked to judgment delivered by Justice Winfrida Okwany in a petition filed by Isaiah Biwott Kangwony, saying the commission was not properly constituted after the exit of the three commissioners.

However, in her ruling, Okwany said there was no vacancy in the commission since there was no Gazette Notice indicating the same.

The judge subsequently ruled that their resignation was unprocedural as they did not write to the appointing authority.

According to the IEBC Act, a vacancy occurs if a commissioner resigns through a written letter to the President.

The law provides that the President shall publish a notice of a vacancy in the Kenya Gazette within seven days of its occurrence.

“On Friday they came and we were surprised to learn that they retained some of the keys they had not handed over and accessed their offices but that has now been rectified and today they came back to see me but we had pre-arranged meetings which are for the activities for the commission,”Chebukati added.

Chebukati had earlier told the court the procedure for resigning requires a commissioner to issue a one-month notice or pay one-month’s gross salary in lieu of the notice.

Yesterday, Chebukati affirmed Okwany’s ruling saying the resignation was not procedural but said the process of recruiting other commissioners is underway.

 

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