Chebukati team, BBI bosses clash over signature budget
Mercy Mwai and Anthony Mwangi
The cost of verifying signatures for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is at the centre of a fresh row with proponents of the constitutional review process.
While the commission says it will require Sh241 million for verification of signatures, officials at the BBI secretariat claim the amount is exaggerated.
IEBC acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO)Marijan Hussein Marijan told People Daily yesterday the electoral body had written to the National Treasury and requested budgetary support for the signature verification amounting to Sh241 million.
Speaking on phone, Marijan explained the money would be used to hire and train clerks who will be used for the exercise.
According to him, despite making the request, the Treasury is yet to respond to the request.
“We made the request a day after we received the signatures. We asked the National Treasury to give us budgetary support of Sh241 million for the exercise to commence,” said Marijan.
At the moment, he said, the only business going on at the commission is handing over of the signatures from the BBI secretariat, serialising and signing of the documents received as well as signing of papers to confirm the signatures.
“There is work going on right now which includes handing over and taking of documents, we also expect the documents to be signed as we wait for a response from the National Treasury.
Once this is done we start recruiting the clerks immediately so that we can train them,” he added.
Reacting to the electoral body’s budget request yesterday, BBI co-chair of the national secretariat Dennis Waweru said the money was too much especially now that technology can be applied to fast-track the process.
“Sh241 million is too much. This is an exercise that can be done using very minimal resources. We can even do it with just Sh1 million,” he said.
Another source at the secretariat who did not wish to be named questioned why the commission was discussing its budget details in public.
“This is too much money for such an exercise, they are doing so in public to whip up emotions,” said the official.
This is the second time that IEBC is clashing with BBI leaders after opposition boss Raila Odinga told off the commission last month after its chairman, Wafula Chebukati, told Parliament that they would require Sh14 billion to conduct a national referendum on the initiative.
According to the commission the estimates were calculated based on the 2017 General Election’s 19.6 million voter register roll.
Raila said IEBC’s estimation of Sh14 billion was outrageous, arguing that the BBI referendum should not cost more than Sh2 billion for 20 million voters.
“The Sh14 billion the IEBC is talking about is not only outrageous but also a manifestation of the institution’s insensitivity to the changes Kenyans are crying for in the management of public affairs,” said Raila.
Yesterday, Thirdway Alliance party secretary general Fredric Okango said that the commission did not disclose to them how much they spent for the verification exercise of signatures for the Punguza Mizigo initiative two years ago.
“We were not told how much they spent on this exercise, we only came to know from people that the CEO at different times quoted Sh20 million and Sh35 million,” he said.
Okango, however, raised concern with how the BBI exercise is being conducted, saying IEBC can only verify the data of the voter and not verify signatures as they does not have a depository of voters’ signatures.
According to the BBI roadmap, President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to assent to the amendments made to the Constitution on or before June 14, 2021.
In the roadmap, the signature verification exercise is expected to take 30 days beginning December 10, 2020 to January 10, next year after which the commission will be required to submit the referendum Bill to county assemblies by January 18, an exercise that will take the 47 county assemblies a month to pass or reject.
The county assemblies will thereafter have 30 days beginning January 19 to February 19 to scrutinise and approve the Bill after which it will be submitted to Parliament where it will within 45 days between February 20 and April 5 be expected to vote for it to pave the way for a referendum.
For the BBI proposals to pass they will require the support of at least 24 county assemblies.