Referendum to cost Sh8bn, says IEBC
The national referendum being pushed by Cord will cost taxpayers in excess of Sh8 billion, top officials at the electoral commission have said.
Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) acting CEO Betty Sungura-Nyabuto told the Nation that the commission will sit in “due course” to work out the actual financial cost.
Estimates indicate that the cost of the vote would be much higher than the Sh7.2 billion which was spent on the 2010 referendum during which the current Constitution was passed.
“Usually, when we have an exercise of this nature, the directorates come together and consider the budget, operational, human and other requirements, security and risk implications etc. This will be addressed wholesome in due course,” Ms Nyabuta said at the weekend.
However, she ruled a fresh voter registration if Cord succeeds in its push.
“Certainly, we shall not require a fresh voter registration,” she said.
Other senior IEBC officials who spoke to the Nation on condition of anonymity because they swore an oath not to reveal the commission’s internal matters to third parties said that the referendum will cost more than the 2010 one because of a significant rise in the number of registered voters. During the last General Election, IEBC had registered more than 14 million voters.
“We have witnessed a new impetus by young Kenyans to register as voters particularly in their home counties driven by the huge job opportunities created by the new Constitution. This obviously means more money to run the referendum,” said one source.
Cord leaders on Saturday told the electoral commission not to worry about the source of money to pay for the referendum saying it was the obligation of the government to do so.
If the push by Cord succeeds, the electoral commission will find itself in a unique position as it will be conducting a referendum that could also decide its future.
In an interview with the Nation, Wiper Democratic Party Kalonzo Musyoka, whose party is affiliated to Cord, said: “Once Kenyans agree on the need for a referendum then the funding must come from the Consolidated Fund as provided for in the Constitution.”
Matter of obligation
His views were supported by Mr Moses Wetang’ula, the Senate Minority Leader, who said: “It is not question of ‘if and when funds are available’ it is a matter of obligation on the part of the Government.”
Mr Wetang’ula, also the Bungoma Senator, said Cord would only pay for the collection of the one million signatures of registered voters required for the referendum to take place.
“For us we want to collect one million signatures and much more and present them to the IEBC,” he said. “It is the Government which is under obligation to fund the referendum, not Cord. Our team of experts are working on the figures.”
Mr Wetang’ula however declined to state how much the coalition had set aside for the collection of the signatures.
“For us we are relying on the goodwill of ourselves, our supporters and Kenyans to fund our activities like the collection of signatures. There are many Kenyans of goodwill out there who are coming to us and telling us, guys you are pursuing a good cause, here is something to keep you going but it is important that we protect their identities and integrity,” he said.
His Kakamega counterpart, Dr Boni Khalwale, echoed similar sentiments, saying Cord was prepared to fund the collection of the signatures and the drafting of the referendum question.
“When we talk about funding, there are two aspects to it. There is the aspect of funding activities such as the collection of one million signatures and the drafting of the referendum question. This is an aspect which if we left to the Treasury, we will be told ‘Ooh there is no money’ so we have organised ourselves sufficiently because we know that it is a cost we must bear ourselves,” he said.
“Once we have collected the one million-plus signatures and drafted the referendum question and the signatures have been verified by IEBC and the referendum question forwarded to the County Assemblies, the cost of the rest of the exercise will be charged on the Exchequer”.
On Friday, Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku alleged that some people were using the promise of free government land in Nakuru and the North Rift to collect signatures for the referendum.
Cord has resolved to exploit the “popular initiative” constitutional provision as a way of beating the numerical strength that Jubilee enjoys in Parliament.
Using this provision, the Opposition Coalition will need to collect at least one million signatures, as required by law, to support its campaign, before moving to the next stage of getting the endorsement of at least 24 county assemblies, after which the referendum question will be taken to Parliament.
The method has a crucial provision which means that Parliament cannot block the move for a referendum. The provisions laid out in Article 257 provide that should 24 counties or more support the referendum question, the matter would then be taken to the National Assembly and the Senate. If both Houses of Parliament pass the draft Bill, they should be forwarded to the President for assent without going to a referendum.
The clincher that Cord is relying on is that should either House reject the referendum question, then it will automatically be presented to the electorate for a vote within 90 days. This means that Jubilee will be constrained in its one advantage tyranny of numbers – if Parliament blocks the Opposition’s push for a referendum.
At the weekend, Siaya Senator James Orengo said the strategy would work.
“Whichever way, this thing must end at a referendum except if the questions do not mandatorily require a referendum. Again, you should know that not all of the 13 issues we have raised will be subjected to a referendum,” he said.
Sources said Cord was working on a one-year timetable in the hope that this will eventually lead the country to a referendum late next year on issues they have said demand urgent attention. They intend to rally Kenyans and their elected leaders around issues that will be selected from the 13-point agenda that Cord identified during its July 7 rally at Uhuru Park.