Saturday, December 6, 2008




December 5 2008

Professionals push the buck to commissioners and lobby House to delete clause in Bill

Electoral Commission of Kenya staff on Friday protested their innocence and blamed the commissioners and returning officers for the conduct of the 2007 General Election.

In a petition to President Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and all MPs, the 600 employees say they were not responsible for the way the election was held and argued that they were professionals who had conducted elections in 1997, 2002 and the 2005 referendum, which were acclaimed by local and international observers as free and fair.

Through tribunal

And now they want a clause that calls for their replacement to be deleted from the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to replace the ECK with an Interim Independent Electoral Commission.

The clause reads: “Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (2), a person who immediately before the commencement of Section 41, held or was acting in an office established by section 41, (now repealed) or was a member of staff of the Electoral Commission of Kenya shall cease to hold or act in that office at the commencement of this section.”

The employees now want the section “….was a member of staff…” deleted. This means that if MPs agree to delete the clause, then only the commissioners will go home.

Section 41 of the Constitution establishes the composition and security of tenure of ECK commissioners. It states that the commissioners can only be removed through a tribunal if found guilty or voluntary resignation.

The staff members petitioned MPs by sending letters to their pigeon holes yesterday ahead of debate of the Bill expected to send the whole ECK packing.

They argued that both local and international law are clear that there can never be “communal responsibility for acts of omission or commission rightly attributable to known persons”.

“Kenyans and the whole world know that the secretariat staff undertook their responsibilities as expected.”

They shifted blame to returning and presiding officers saying it was not fair for innocent staff members to be punished for mistakes committed by other people.

The commission normally appoints returning and deputy returning officers for each of the 210 constituencies.

The employees said it was the commissioners who recruit returning officers who in turn hire presiding officers to oversee elections in polling stations.

Temporary clerks are normally employed in each of the 27, 000 polling stations to perform various duties.

Election fiasco

“The said returning officers and their temporary support staff in the various constituencies were not employees of the ECK. They were recruited by the commission, and having contributed to the electoral fiasco, have conveniently melted into thin air,” they wrote.

The employees also sought the authority of the Head of the Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet, Mr Francis Muthaura, and asked attorney-general Amos Wako to intervene on their behalf.

The letter is copied to US and Germany ambassadors, British High Commissioner, United Nations Development Programme country director, the European Union and the Law Society of Kenya.They argued that they were not given a chance to state their case before the Kriegler Commission that recommends a total overhaul of the commission.

The Kriegler report, they added, praised the professional nature of the ECK staff members.

However, the staff members who held crisis meetings for the past two days, have left their fate to Parliament as they will not go to court.