The IEBC selection panel reconvenes today to discuss damning and embarrassing allegations against some of its nominees, which has exposed it to public ridicule. It turns out Statehouse operatives lobbied for nomionation of the candidates whose dark past cannot go unnoticed.
The panel, made up mostly of top religious leaders, has been bogged down by integrity claims against some of the nominees to the electoral commission, including chairman Wafula Chebukati.
Sources told the Star the nine-member team headed by Bernadette Musundi will meet at an undisclosed location this morning, amid growing criticism it failed the country.
Chebukati, for instance, was lawyer to former anti-graft chief Philip Kinisu. Kinisu was hounded out of office for allegedly pocketing Sh35 million from the National Youth Service.
There are concerns that Chebukati could also be a beneficiary of the cash, although there is no evidence yet.
Chebukati’s law firm – Cootow and Associates Advocates – is also accused of professional negligence that led to loss of millions of shillings belonging to the Nairobi county government.
The firm did not defend a suit filed by Salima Enterprises against the county and the county government lost the case and was forced to pay Sh325 million compensation in addition to the cost of the suit and legal fees.
On December 23, the selection panel settled on Chebukati, alongside High Court advocate Tukero ole Kina for IEBC chairman. Kina scored 77 per cent against Chebukati’s 63 per cent.
But President Uhuru Kenyatta – allowed by law to pick the electoral commission chairman from a list of two – pulled a surprise on Kenyans by settling on the less qualified Chebukati, who incidentally comes from the same region as IEBC chief executive Ezra Chiloba.
The other candidate for IEBC commissioner with fresh integrity questions is Consolata Nkatha.
She allegedly has an active criminal court case, in which she is accused of defrauding the Museums of Kenya of Sh280 million.
Nkatha scored 55 per cent and was ranked last by the recruitment panel.
It is not clear yet what the selection panel seeks to do as its mandate officially ended after presenting its report to the President.
Panel members, including National Council of Churches of Kenya secretary general Peter Karanja and Olga Karani, remained tight-lipped, insisting that only Musundi is allowed to speak to the media.
“I cannot comment. If you call the chairperson, she can comment,” Karanja told the Star yesterday.
Musundi did not answer phone calls or respond to text messages.
Yesterday, Bumula MP Boniface Otsiula said the panel members have themselves to blame if they slept on the job.
He said Chebukati is not under investigation by any arm of government. “I think this is pure malice,” Otsiula, a member of the National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee that would vet Chebukati, told the Star.
“It’s like accusing a lawyer for representing a murderer in court. Does he also become part of the murder case or does a lawyer also become a rapist for representing a rapist?” the MP said.
“So if Chebukati represented Kinisu, he did so not as his brother, spouse or in whatever capacity, but as a professional advocate of the High Court.”
National Assembly majority leader Aden Duale said it is not provided anywhere in law that the chairperson and the CEO should not come from the same community.
“Those saying the two cannot work at the commission at the same time because they come from the same community, believe in a tribal Kenya. Ours is a country that believes in merit,” he said.
Questions have also been raised why the President ignored merit in appointing commissioners.
For instance, Zephania Okeyo, who topped the nominees by scoring 80 per cent was not given the job.
Also left out were Samuel Kimeu who got 68 per cent and Abdi Yakub Guliye ( 75 per cent).
Uhuru nominated Abdi Guliye, Boya Molu, Consolata Nkatha, Margaret Mwachanya, Paul Kurgat and Roselyn Akombe as commissioners.
Before going on recess, the MPs passed a motion allowing National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi to directly send the names to the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee for vetting.
By the STAR Newspaper