KENYA: IEBC split after Ezra Chiloba is sent on forced leave
IEBC chief executive Ezra Chiloba, Prof Yakub Guliye, chairman Wafula Chebukati and vice chairperson Consolata Maina at County Hall, Nairobi on October 5 last year. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP
NAIROBI (DAILY NATION) – The suspension of the electoral commission chief executive Ezra Chiloba by chairman Wafula Chebukati has split the agency once more.
Mr Chebukati reportedly travelled to Nigeria during the weekend after chairing a meeting on Friday that ended with the suspension of Mr Chiloba, splitting the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission in the middle.
Sources say the chairman is supported by commissioners Boya Molu and Prof Abdi Guliye while his deputy Consolata Maina and Dr Paul Kurgat on the other side.
Ms Margaret Mwachanya is on an official trip to the United Arab Emirates.
Dr Roselyne Akombe left the commission towards the end of last year and is yet to be replaced.
Mr Chiloba, who is also the secretary to the commission, told the Nation that he had been informed of his suspension while Mr Chebukati could not be reached for comment.“I received an email this morning, which was sent on Saturday night, saying the plenary met and resolved that I take a three-month compulsory leave so that IEBC undertakes an audit on the procurement for election materials,” Mr Chiloba said by phone yesterday.
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Asked if he would proceed on leave, the IEBC chief executive said he was not in his office in the morning and had not seen the suspension letter.
Mr Chiloba said neither he nor his deputy, Marjan Hussein, attended the Friday meeting.
This would mean there was nobody to take minutes.
Commissioners hold a plenary meeting once a month.
This month’s plenary was initially scheduled for Thursday this week but was held on last Friday because Mr Chebukati would be away.
There were presentations on several reports at the Friday meeting.
Dr Kurgat said towards the end of the plenary, Mr Chebukati announced that he had a chairman’s report from an internal audit.
Prof Guliye heads the audit sub-committee and when Ms Maina asked why he was not the one who came up with the report, Mr Chebukati said he commissioned it.
The report was on procurement of ICT materials.
Questions were also raised about the report not being on the day’s agenda and why it had not been seen by the rest of the commissioners.
“We had not seen it yet we were expected to listen, synthesise and make a decision immediately. I and the vice chairperson argued that it was not going to be fair,” Dr Kurgat said.
He added that they were also wary of the legal repercussions of making a decision without having read the report and interviewed those implicated.
The commissioners questioned the timing of the report, given that inquiries would seek original documents currently being scrutinised by the auditor-general.
“We needed a little more patience. If anyone is on the wrong, he is not going anywhere. Everything is on the table and we will account for what we did or did not do,” Dr Kurgat said.
He said when they differed on the procedure and insisted the report be on the agenda, Ms Maina left the room.
The decision was eventually made by Mr Chebukati, Mr Molu and Prof Guliye. The professor did not respond to text messages from the Nation.
According to the IEBC Act, the quorum for meetings is five commissioners.
The current division is reminiscent of another one last year that came in the wake of the annulment of the presidential election and the subsequent call by the opposition National Super Alliance for the dismissal of Mr Chiloba.
When that demand was taken to the plenary meeting by Mr Chebukati, with the backing of Dr Akombe, a split emerged.
Mr Chebukati would escalate matters when he wrote Mr Chiloba a memo demanding answers to several issues concerning the election.
He was supported by Dr Akombe while four commissioners were against him, with Ms Mwachanya reported to have been ambivalent.
The commissioners later ironed out their differences during a stormy meeting at the Great Rift Valley Lodge, Naivasha. At hand to guide them were Bishop Alfred Rotich and author Wale Akinyemi.
Another IEBC source told the Nation that the chairman and the CEO still do not agree on the nullification of the 2017 presidential election.
The suspension once again demonstrates the lack of harmony between the chairman and Mr Chiloba, the cogs in the machinery of one of Kenya’s most watched public institutions.