Thursday, January 8, 2009

The perpetual embarassment that is the Electoral Commission of Kenya

Some former Electoral Commission of Kenya bosses are yet to surrender their official vehicles, weeks after the Government sent them packing.

Former ECK vice-chairperson Kihara Muttu could neither confirm nor deny if some of his colleagues were holding on to the vehicles. “We cannot say yes or no because we could be confirming someone’s ill-motivated agenda. I have always used my personal vehicle, and I am still using it,” he said. A source said the former commissioners were still in office because their appointments are yet to be degazetted. Mr Muttu said the former commissioners, who have asked for a Sh500 million send-off package, were yet to be told if they would get it.

The gratuity issue has sparked a row between the Office of the President and the Prime Minister. Last week, the President’s Office reportedly assured the former ECK bosses that the pay-off would be calculated on the remainder of their term plus a lump sum. But the PM’s office has said the former commissioners do not deserve such large amounts of money. The ECK commissioners were among the best paid civil servants in the country, each earning about Sh400,000 in salary and allowances while former chairman Samuel Kivuitu earned Sh513,000 in salary and allowances - tax-free.

In a related development, members of a transition team appointed by the President’s Office to oversee the changeover at the electoral body are keeping away from the Anniversary Tower offices. This follows an order by Prime Minister Raila Odinga that the offices remain closed until a new team had been constituted.

Meanwhile, Mr Kivuitu and his team got a breather after a court extended an order stopping their prosecution in relation to the 2007 General Election. The case was filed by a Kuresoi voter, Mr Julius Melli, who wants the commissioners charged with abuse of office.

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