Kenya’s brand new election body wants to spend Ksh 41 billion to conduct its next elections. In other currencies, this would be the equivalent of US $ 500 million. Compared to how much other countries spend on their elections, none comes closer to Kenya. We now pride ourselves as the country that can burn a half a billion dollars just to elect our political leaders.
Let me tell you what Kenyans can do with this money. Were someone to distribute this money among Kenyans, each one of us would get at least Ksh 1000.
As we plan to lavishly spend on the coming elections, we are begging Japan to lend us Ks 29 billion to build a 20km road linking Mombasa and South Coast. We are negotiating with donors to fund a Ksh 60 billion water project at the Coast. We are negotiating a Ksh 34 billion for the Nairobi Urban Road project as we also negotiate another Ksh 37 billion with the World Bank to build a power connector with the Ethiopian power supply.
You can see from the above that we are not short of what to spend our billions on.
A detailed look at the breakdown of this immoral budget reveals that this Commission is hell bent on recruiting 350,000 election officials and 100,000 security officers to man the one day elections. These numbers alone beat even the total Kenya government public service employment statistics. At the moment, Kenya employs about 220,000 civil servants and 70,000 Police officers.
Supplement this with about 220,000 teachers and you have a total of 510,000 work force that Kenya manages in three key public sector departments. The question to ask is this: Does the IEBC in its current structure have the capacity to manage a work force of 450,000 efficiently and effectively?
Managing a workforce of this number of people even if it was for just one day would require no less than 1000 administrators if the institutions such as the Teachers Service Commission, the police force or civil service are anything to go by.
It therefore means that what Kenya’s election commission is not telling is that it will need additional 1000 administrative staff on top of what it has budgeted for.
Leaving an unwieldy headcount alone, how will the commission pay all these people in real time assuming that the government gave it the $ 500 million it is demanding? Will it accomplish what the Ministry of Planning with a bigger workforce failed to do during the 2009 census? If the 340,000 election officials are not paid on time, will this affect the elections’ real time results?
The Electoral Commission has spelt out budget lines that will eat up this amount of money. Lined up are fresh voter registration, a possible presidential run-off, the purchase of a biometric equipment and electronic poll books.
Also budgeted for are 45,000 polling stations, 335, 000 tallying centers in 290 constituencies, 47 counties and 47 Diaspora centers.
The question to ask is this: Why do we need 335,000 tallying centers and 45,000 polling stations when our elections are likely to be electronic? The Commission has a responsibility to explain spending billions buying electronic equipment to make voting efficient while at the same time want to tally votes in 335,000 tallying centers. Why can’t it relay results from the 45,000 polling stations directly to the main election hub in Nairobi?
But perhaps the biggest stinker in this budget is to include Ksh 1.8 billion as lawyers’ fees arising from expected election petitions. Surely are the coming elections going to be so flawed beyond recognition? Is the IBEC preparing the country for the worst? Suppose IEBC hired lawyers, probably ten lawyers at Ksh 1million a month for the duration of the petitions, wouldn’t it be cheaper than to set aside nearly two billion shillings in anticipation?
It is indeed important to remember that Kenyans need a credible election to wipe out the bad memories of the 2007 fiasco. It is also true that Isaak Hassan and his team mean well for the country. However, all they need to remember is that Kenya is a poor country with numerous challenges. As such, any budget prepared by an independent body that depends on public finance must be such that the public does not detect any wastage or uncalled for extravagance.
All that the IEBC needs is to hire the services of an expert in budgeting to clean up the budget, shed off the excess fat that attracts negative criticism from the public and parliament and come up with a realistic budget that Kenyans can identify with. If this does not happen, the good will that the IEBC has enjoyed among Kenyans will soon dissipate with disastrous results for the young organization. Once that good will is gone, it will take a long time in coming back.
The IEBC must remember that most Kenyans are uncomfortable with its decision to hold the next elections in March 2013 when in fact many Kenyans expected elections in August 2012. The longer the elections are delayed the more problems may emerge for the electoral body because there will be election fatigue among the electorate considering that some aspirants have been on the road campaigning since October 2010.
Yes, we need a credible election this time round and we need it within the budget this country can afford. It is the type of best practice we should be proud to share with our neighbors in the region.