NAIROBI, Kenya Dec 30 – The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) on Wednesday formally launched the verification exercise of the close to 4.4 million signatures collected in support of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) referendum Bill.
The electoral body Chairperson Wafula Chebukati officially kicked off the exercise at the Bomas of Kenya that will be undertaken by 400 newly hired clerks and 60 supervisors mostly drawn from the commission.
The 400 clerks who were shortlisted from a pool of 139,475 applicants took secrecy oaths with Chebukati informing them that “a high decree of confidentiality was key during the exercise”.
“You are now employees of the commission and we expect you to adhere to the code of conduct for the IEBC staff and the laws governing the referendum processes,” he said.
During the exercise, the clerks will be ensuring that those who were listed as having appended their signatures in support of the BBI Bill are actually registered voters in existing polling stations.
Chebukati at the same time warned that a breach of any of the laws or regulations will lead to severe punishment this even as he emphasized that the integrity of the process is key.
“Work within the law and we shall all move smoothly,” he said.
The commission was allocated Sh93 million by the National Treasury to conduct the exercise which is estimated to take 40 days.
According to the Acting IEBC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Hussein Marjan, the clerks will be entitled to a daily wage of Sh1,200 with the supervisors taking home Sh6,000 a day.
The commission had earlier requested for Sh241 million to conduct the exercise.
While defending the commission’s budgetary needs, Marjan assured that the agency was keen on cutting costs and dismissed claims that its push for more funds was premised on unrealistic demands.
“As a commission we strive to cut costs whenever we can,” he said.
With the exercise now set in motion, Chebukati was however quick to remind Kenyans that the agency will set its own timeliness for the BBI referendum upon completion of the signature verification exercise.
While appearing non-committal on working with the timeliness which were issued by the BBI Secretariat, Chebukati underscored that the commission will be working o its own pace to ensure the process is devoid of any glitches.
“Once we are done with the phase one, we shall make public our timeliness,” he said.
The BBI Secretariat had estimated that the referendum will be held between April and June of 2021.
Once the verification exercise is complete, IEBC is expected to submit the Bill to all the 47 county assemblies who will have three months to consider it.
Twenty-four devolved units are needed to pass the Bill for it to be presented to the National Assembly and the Senate for debate and subsequent passage after which President Uhuru Kenyatta will assent to it and forward it to IEBC to prepare for the referendum.