Polls agency IEBC is on the spot over a planned executive training for commissioners and directors on boundaries review.
Impeccable sources at the commission told the Star that taxpayers would fork out close to Sh9 million in travel, accommodation and per diem expenses for the trip.
Its three commissioners—Wafula Chebukati (chairman), Boya Molu, and Abdi Guliye—and directors of voter registration, human resource, legal, research and development, ICT and Finance are expected to attend the training in two groups starting April 1 to April 12.
The first team comprises the chairman, acting CEO Marjan Marjan, research director Catherine Kamindo, human resources director Lorna Onyang and legal affairs director Michael Goa.
Commissioners Molu and Guliye, deputy commission secretary Obadia Keitany, ICT director Silas Njeru and voter registration director Rasi Masudi will travel between April 6 and April 11.
The hue and cry raised within the polls agency are that the persons selected for the training have a minimal role in boundary delimitation, yet critical staffers have been left out.
The source indicated that the technical staff from the directorate of voter education and those from the boundaries directorate have been left behind, yet their role is critical.
The IEBC is set to spend well over Sh1 million on each of the three commissioners and the acting chief executive officer for the seven-day trip.
The directors stand to earn close to Sh900,000 in allowances. Polls experts say the millions can train the 290 returning officers and the 47 county returning officers.
Documents seen by the Star indicate that each commissioner will earn Sh92,664 per diem, totalling Sh648,700 for the budgeted seven days.
The directors will net at least Sh495,936 each in per diem allowances.
The team will expend Sh1.25 million in air tickets and Sh2.16 million in tuition fees, being Sh216,000 for each person.
The National Treasury, in austerity measures, directed a cease of international trips, encouraged state agencies to use digital platforms where the expertise is not locally available.
Much as institutions have budget heads, the country is currently mired in a cash-flow crisis in the face of the second lockdown to contain Covid-19 spread.
A constituency returning officer who sought anonymity for fear of victimisation told the Star that they have given up on getting a chance for training outside the country.
“Previously, all commission staff had an almost equal chance of participating in different benchmarking activities regionally and internationally.”
But Chebukati defended the trip, saying the “commission invests heavily in capacity building of its staff and commissioners to enable it to discharge its constitutional mandate.”
He said the training of staff is mainly on technical capacity, while commissioners would be trained in policy and oversight in specific areas.
Chebukati also defended the choice of Dubai as the venue. “While much of the training is available and done locally, some are not available locally,” he told the Star in response to queries on the cost, venue, and choice of participants.
“While it is generally assumed that commissioners should not be trained and that only technical staff should undergo training, the assumption is far from reality as those in charge of governance equally require training to enable them to fulfil their governance responsibility.”
Chebukati added that when planning for technical training, consideration is given to all critical staff responsible for executing the task. He said others have been left out because of resource constraints “as it sometimes may not be possible to train all of them at ago”.
Those not trained because of budgetary constraints are usually considered in the next training phase, he said.
An insider told the Star that the budget approval was unusually fast-tracked. There are questions on the timing of the trip as the delimitation will take place after the 2022 election.
In March 2019, concerns were raised about IEBC’s plan to spend Sh30 million in benchmarking on electoral boundaries. The trip was for various countries, including South Africa, which ironically does not have constituencies.
The IEBC protested the publication, insinuating an agenda by the media to further a negative narrative against it.
The last boundaries review was done by the Interim Independent Boundaries Review Commission that increased the number of constituencies from 210 to 290. It was led by former Vihiga MP Andrew Ligale.
Field officers who spearheaded the process, the majority of whom were absorbed by the IEBC and are still with the commission, did not receive any international training.
The group was trained at Utalii College by the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development—an institute that prides itself on public resource management.
A group of lawmakers caused a stir recently when they took a trip to Dubai for public finance management training, with the IEBC’s signalling the slow return of expensive voyages.