No cash to verify Okoa Kenya signatures-IEBC

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ChilobaThe electoral commission has said that it may not complete the verification of the Okoa Kenya referendum signatures due to lack of cash, 13 days to the February 4 deadline.

Article 257 of the Constitution gives the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) 90 days to verify the 1.4 million signatures prepared by the opposition Cord to hold the Okoa Kenya referendum.

The coalition presented the papers to the commission on November 9, 2015.

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The team is required to verify that those listed are registered voters and meet the one million threshold to push the Bill to the next level.

The commission’s chief executive, Dr Ezra Chiloba, on Thursday said they had completed the preliminary work, and was awaiting the passage of a supplementary budget to complete the verification.

“The commission has requested funds under the supplementary budget to move to the next level. We have completed preliminary work awaiting funds to move to the next level of verification,” Dr Chiloba told the Nation on Thursday.

The commission already indicated that it was underfunded this year when it requested Sh2 billion but only got Sh500 million.

Dr Chiloba has suggested that to save money, the referendum question could be included in the General Election ballot paper.

“The referendum is not guaranteed because the sponsors must persuade at least half of the 47 counties to approve the Bill for it to proceed. But Kenyans will have to decide the best sequence, because having a major electoral event in the same cycle as the General Election has its challenges,” said Dr Chiloba told TheEastAfrican last week.

BROKE IEBC

But Cord honchos on Thursday dismissed the claim of a broke IEBC and demanded that the referendum be held as planned.

“The IEBC is under a constitutional obligation to ensure that they meet the deadline. All the other things are excuses and they go a long way to lend credence to our fears that the commission is under somebody else’s influence. They cannot raise the issue of less funding now,” said ODM political affairs director Opiyo Wandayi.

Outgoing Law Society of Kenya president Eric Mutua said the time of the verification cannot be extended.

According to Mr Mutua, the Constitution does not envision a case where the verification of the signatures go past the 90-day period.

“The Constitution says “shall” not “may” and that does not give room for extension of the time to verify the signatures,” said Mr Mutua.

In the Bill, Cord wants counties to control at least 45 per cent of the national revenue, governors to control security and the formation of a Ward Development Fund to be run by members of the county assemblies.

The Opposition coalition also wants the Senate to be involved in national government revenue allocation, to debate all Bills and not only those concerning county governments.

It further wants the Senate to participate in approval of appointments to constitutional commissions and institution and not exclusively National Assembly.

It also proposes that the commissioners of the electoral body be appointed by political parties based on their numerical strengths in Parliament

Dr Chiloba told The EastAfrican that the commission had mobilised 100 workers to convert the data from hard to soft copy.

The IEBC has prepared a roadmap for the 2017 elections that will cost the taxpayer Sh45 billion, one of the most expensive elections in Africa.

DELAY REFERENDUM
Mr Wandayi said the funding issue was a ploy to delay the referendum.

“IEBC is doing everything under the sun to delay this referendum, and we will not allow it. It is really none of our business what they are saying, we just want the Bill to go to the 47 assemblies,” the Ugunja MP said.

Cord leader Raila Odinga has already started a charm offensive to meet members of the county assemblies to endorse the Bill once it reaches the regional Houses.

When he met the western Kenya MCAs last month, Mr Odinga said the Okoa Kenya Bill was the only way to protect devolution.

Cord controls 24 of the 47 county governments.

“Devolution has many powerful enemies and I am sure what we are proposing will be met with opposition from some quarters. But nothing can stop an idea whose time has come as the message is very powerful,” Mr Odinga told MCAs from Kisumu, Migori, Homa Bay, Nyamira, Kisii, Siaya and Kakamega counties.

After verification, the Bill will be presented to the 47 assemblies that have 90 days to pass or reject the proposed law. The Bill will then be forwarded to both the National Assembly and the Senate, which also have 90 days for debate and voting.

REFERENDUM PROPOSALS

There are three other referendum proposals, all of which are collecting signatures.

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and the Boresha Initiative led by Mukurweini MP Kabando wa Kabando are drafting their Bills before collecting their signatures.

Mwingi Central MP Joe Mutambu has also proposed a Bill that seeks to reduce the number of counties from 47 to 25 as well as scrap the Senate and Women Rep positions.

Mr Kuria wants MPs reduced from 290 to 200, get rid of the Senate and woman representatives, reduce the number of governors from 47 to 16 and abolish nominations to Parliament or the county assemblies.

The law states: “If the IEBC is satisfied that the initiative meets the requirements of this Article, the Commission shall submit the draft Bill to each county assembly for consideration within three months after the date it was submitted by the Commission.”

-nation.co.ke

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