Inside proposed new IEBC after Ruto and Raila troops reach new deal

Allies of President William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga have closed ranks in Parliament and agreed on a series of changes to restructure the electoral agency in a proposed law.

MPs support amendments proposed by the joint parliamentary committee on Justice and Legal Affairs regarding the Independent Electoral and Boundaries (Amendment) Bill 2024.

The new commissioners who will be recruited by the yet-to-be-named selection panel will take office with a series of changes to the electoral body.

The changes adopted by parliamentarians include provisions that the next chief executive officer (CEO) of IEBC will now serve a four-year term, renewable only once.

This was a downgrade from an earlier proposal to set the CEO’s term at six non-renewable years.

MPs also approved during the committee of the whole House the requirement that the next commissioners have proven experience in information and communication technologies (ICT) and accounting as additional qualifications for the position.

In adopting the new qualification, lawmakers said the additional qualifications for the next cohort of commissioners will help better manage elections as the country’s polls are largely driven by technology.

“The proposed additional expertise in information and communications technology and accounting is consistent with the commission’s various functions that include the use of technology and the prudent procurement of goods and services related to the conduct of elections,” the bill says. .

According to section 6(2) of the IEBC Act 2011, a person is qualified to be appointed as a member of the Commission if he or she holds a degree from a recognized university and has demonstrated relevant experience in any of the following fields: Electoral matters. , management, finance, governance, public administration, law and meets the requirements of Chapter Six of the Constitution.

A proposal by Kinangop MP Zachary Kwenya that the next chairperson of the commission also have proven experience in ICT, accounting, governance and public administration was scrapped after the lawmaker held consultations with leaders.

“We have consulted and agreed to the amendments proposed by the Joint Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs. There were areas of minor errors that both coalitions agreed to change,” said National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi.

Lawmakers also increased the period in which the next commission is expected to review the holding of the general election and submit a report to the National Assembly from the current 12 months to 18 months.

However, some MPs said the proposal contained in Clause Six of the bill is not explicit about what Parliament should do with the report, in case the IEBC finds in its review that the elections had some anomalies.

“What comes next after the report is presented to Parliament? The commission should have provided a way forward on what Parliament should do with the report,” Funyula MP Wilberforce Oundo said.

However, committee chairman George Murugara said they did not want to legislate for the House on what to do with the report once submitted by IEBC.

“We left it open so that the House can make its own decision on what to do with the report,” Murugara said.

The next selection panel will also get its funding from the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) after MPs adopted changes to Clause 8 of the bill.

The current law left the financing of the panel open, so it was not clear where the panel was getting money from to carry out its activities and the same raised questions about the impartiality of the panel, as there were suspicions that it was being funded by the Executive.

“This panel would sit and carry out its activities and there would be questions about where it would get its funding from,” said Dagoretti North MP Beatrice Elachi.

The seven members of the Electoral Commission Selection Panel led by Dr Nelson Makanda were also disbanded when MPs adopted a proposal seeking to send them home.

“The panel…ceases to exist, but a person who served as a member of that selection panel may be nominated to serve as a member of the selection panel appointed under this Act,” the bill says.

However, yesterday MPs encouraged the panel team to reapply when the recruitment advert for the new team is published.

“We have not sacked them, in fact they are encouraged to apply to be part of the next panel,” said Embakasi West MP Mark Mwenje.

The new panel will have nine members from the current seven, after MPs adopted a proposal to increase the candidates of the Liaison Committee of Political Parties from the current one to three.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration. The opposition has called for electoral justice and also an audit of the 2022 presidential elections.