What is the IEBC threshold for integrity for those seeking elective positions? IEBC is the electoral body that vets potential candidates and their suitability for election. However, we have many elected representatives who lack integrity. This begs the question, how did they get there?
The issue of IEBC threshold for integrity played out well in January 2016. A special IEBC committee absolved Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula from voter bribery claims. Wetangula and CORD welcomed the move. They termed the claims as an attempt by the Jubilee government to “finish him politically”.
Yet, here is where the issue plays out interestingly. The IEBC decision was contrary to a Supreme Court ruling that upheld an earlier ruling by the High Court. The High Court found Senator Moses Wetangula guilty of voter bribery, which is an electoral offence. Wetangula committed the offence prior to the 2013 general elections.
The High Court established beyond a reasonable doubt that Wetangula committed an offence. He participated in voter bribery to influence and induce voters to vote for him as a senator. The Supreme Court then upheld the earlier ruling by the High Court. The Supreme Court directed the DPP, Senate Speaker, and IEBC to receive the report and take action on Wetangula.
The Senate speaker gazetted the report and paved the way for IEBC to make the final decision. IEBC formed a special committee that investigated and gave Wetangula a fair hearing. After the investigations, the committee reported that Wetangula had no case to answer.
As a result, IEBC did not strike off Wetangula’s name from the voter’s register. He also got a free pass to contest for the Senate seat or any other in future.
Wetangula through his defence team argued that court did not convict him for an electoral offence. IEBC justified its decision by claiming that there was no lawful justification to delete Wetangula’s name from the voter’s register.
This is not the first time people questioned the IEBC threshold for integrity. The next case involves Kabete MP Ferdinand Waititu.
Some voters from Kabete Constituency had challenged Waititu’s eligibility to contest for the seat in a court of law. The Kabete seat remained vacant after the area MP died in the hand of armed gangsters. The petitioners questioned Waititu’s eligibility to hold public office due to his lack of integrity. Justice Lenaola ruled that the court lacked the jurisdiction under electoral law to make a finding on a nominee’s eligibility.
Waititu, in his defence, argued that IEBC had a dispute resolution mechanism that could handle the matter. The court upheld his argument and threw out the case. Before that, someone had challenged his integrity again in a court of law.
This other petitioner challenged Waititu’s eligibility and integrity to hold public office after a presidential appointment. He was to become the new Chair of the Athi Water Services Board. Justice Mumbi Ngugi nullified Waititu’s appointment and declared him unfit to hold any state office.
Because of the ruling, Waititu is unfit to hold office as a chairperson, director or an employee of any company owned or controlled by the state, or any state organ, for life.
After the initial case went to the IEBC dispute resolution committee, it still cleared Waititu. He was eligible to run for the Kabete parliamentary seat, which he won. Yet again, the IEBC decision went contrary to the judiciary findings.
IEBC also cleared Moses Kuria to run for Gatundu South parliamentary seat. Kuria faced hate speech charges in court at the time. Since then, he became notorious for hate speech and the court cases tripled.
Still, on the IEBC threshold for integrity, the case of Uhuru and Ruto comes to mind. We cannot forget that IEBC cleared them to run for the presidency. The two had high profile cases involving crimes against humanity at the International Court of Justice at the time.
However, IEBC was not alone in this. The case challenging their eligibility dragged on at the High Court until the last minute. The High Court ruled it had no jurisdiction to determine the case. It said only the Supreme Court could make such a ruling. This paved the way for IEBC to approve their candidature for the top seat.
Questioning the IEBC threshold for integrity, it seems IEBC is entertaining impunity.
Therefore, what is the threshold for IEBC when it comes to integrity? Why does it contradict other bodies like the Judiciary? In addition, why does it clear persons with questionable integrity to run for elective office? Does behaviour also not matter when it comes to questions of integrity?
IEBC does not establish the integrity for potential aspirants in isolation. It also relies on other bodies such as KRA, EACC, HELB, and DCI (formerly CID). When these bodies fail to do a thorough background check on these candidates, IEBC becomes a rubber stamp for miscarriage of integrity.
To determine the actual IEBC threshold for integrity, it requires IEBC to come clear. We have the integrity laws such as-
- Chapter 6 on Leadership and Integrity
- The Leadership and Integrity Act
- Public Officer Ethics Act
IEBC should show to what extent it relies on them to determine the threshold for integrity. It is difficult to determine what mechanisms IEBC use to determine the threshold for integrity. This shows an extensive lack or disregard for transparency and accountability on IEBC’s part. It possibly also justifies claims of external influence in IEBC operations.