By IBRAHIM ORUKO
The electoral commission has pledged to be more transparent and accountable in its conduct of the October 26 repeat presidential election.
In a letter to opposition coalition National Super Alliance (Nasa), the commission says it will embed technical experts from the UN and the Commonwealth as well as representatives of candidates into the electoral ICT team.
The media will also be free to cover the announcement of results in the 290 constituency tallying centres.
The letter by chairman Wafula Chebukati to Nasa executive director Norman Magaya dated September 22 was in response to the coalition’s “irreducible minimum” demands following the nullification of the August 8 presidential election by the Supreme Court on grounds that the Constitution and electoral laws were flouted.
In the communication, Mr Chebukati gives concessions on some of Nasa’s demands while pushing back on others.
For example, on the issue of printing of ballot papers and result forms, it says although it has a two-year contract with Al Ghurair, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had also offered to procure the materials for it.
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The request had been passed to the Treasury and is awaiting a response, Mr Chebukati says.
Already, Cabinet has approved Sh10 billion budget for the repeat election.
Nasa has demanded that the Al Ghurair printing contract be revoked.
On the demand for staff changes at the commission, Mr Chebukati says some Returning Officers will be shuffled while others may face disciplinary action arising from the nullified August 8 elections.
He is however silent on the senior officials at the headquarters who Nasa wants sacked.
The commission says media houses should cover the announcements of the results in all the 290 Constituency Tallying Centres to promote accountability.
In the run-up to the August 8 General Election, the government warned media houses against releasing presidential election results before the commission, warning that those who defied the order risked losing their licences.
As a result, many of the returning officers refused to publicly display or share forms 34B — the constituency result documents— with journalists.
This time the commission says the media and other independent observers will be given access to the entire electoral process including all ballot paper printing, deployment and reception of election materials, polling, counting at the polling stations and tallying at both the constituency and national centre.
“The commission will provide access to accredited media houses to cover results announcements at all levels. Media will be encouraged to show a live feed of the verified results,” the commission says.
On August 8, transmission of results started with a text message followed by a scanned image of Form 34A.
But the commission now says the system has been reconfigured to ensure no text results are transmitted without a scanned image.
Returning Officers and Presiding Officers will only use approved standardised results forms on October 26 unlike in August when they used forms not standardised.
“All forms 34A will be reprinted with the candidate and polling station names,” Mr Chebukati said.
Owing to its size, forms 34B will only have the first page pre-printed and the rest of the document prepared on secured excel worksheet.
The transmission of the forms will be done by scanning the result forms and sending the scanned documents through a safe IP address and will be secured as hashed and/or password-protected, which will be allocated directly by the national returning officer to the returning officers at the point of transmission.
Unlike in the August 8 elections, the fresh presidential poll will see forms 34B verified against scanned forms 34A before the winner is identified.
Similarly, the result at the National Tallying Centre will show which polling stations they will be transmitted from and will be accompanied by scanned images of the results.
On August 11, Mr Chebukati announced aggregated results from the 47 counties but on October 26, he will announce results by constituencies after all forms 34A and 34B have been received and verified.
In the letter, Mr Chebukati affirms the commission’s independence and shows determination to avoid pitfalls that led to the nullification of the August 8 presidential election.
He insists that due to time constraints, Dubai-based Al Ghurair Company will print ballot papers and result forms and French firm OT-Morpho will provide the result transmission system for the repeat presidential poll.
Mr Chebukati contends that IEBC was bound by a two-year framework agreement with the Dubai firm for the printing of ballot papers