Kenya General Election

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the Constitutional body mandated with managing the electoral process in Kenya, says it needs sh30 billion to appropriately conduct the next General Elections scheduled for August 2017. In addition, it requested sh2 billion from the government to conduct a comprehensive voter registration exercise, but only received sh500 million, which it says, will hamper its efforts to conduct the exercise properly. The voter registration exercise is scheduled to start from mid-February 2015. IEBC plans to use the sh30 billion to cover its budget in the next two years, including the General Elections and expected runoff.

Prior to the March 2013 General Elections, IEBC requested sh35 billion from the Treasury to conduct the elections and the anticipated runoff that never occurred. Treasury at first issued it with sh17.5 billion in the 2012/2013 budget but IEBC claimed the money was only enough to facilitate a runoff.  In the end, it is estimated that Kenya spent approximately $293 million (Ksh26 billion) to conduct the 2013 elections with $100 million (Ksh9 billion) coming from donors.

For the 2013 General Elections in Kenya, the IEBC spent about $10 (sh650) per person and $21 (sh1800) per registered voter. Even so, what accounts for such excessive spending on the General Elections in Kenya?

The New Constitution promulgated in August 2010 transformed the politics and governance landscape in Kenya. We saw a transition from a centralized to a decentralized system of government. Devolution, the form of decentralized governance that Kenyans adopted and endorsed, created new administrative and institutional systems of democratic representation. These are The Presidency, Governors, Senators, Women Representatives, Members of Parliament and the Ward Representatives (also known as Members of the County Assemblies, or simply MCAs).

During the General Elections carried out every five years, as from 2013, Kenyans vote for the six elective positions on the same day. This means that Kenyans elect 1 President, 47 Governors, 47 Women Representatives, 290 Members of Parliament (National Assembly­), 47 Senators and 1450 Ward Representatives all together. This makes the Kenyan General Elections to become a massive affair that requires a large amount of resources to ensure that it flows smoothly

IEBC spends much of its electoral budget on recurrent expenditure. In the 2013 General Elections, it is estimated that IEBC involved 45,000 polling stations, 350,000 election officials, 100,000 security officers, 338 tallying centers at the Sub-County (Constituency), County and National levels and 47 voting points for diaspora voters within the East African Community (EAC). However, IEBC also spent immensely on capital spending including the purchase of biometric voter registration equipment and electronic poll books.

IEBC holds that the huge consumption of budget it requires is primarily based on the vast nature of the elections in Kenya, the vast material consumption and other added considerations. Nevertheless, we can all remember how the biometric kit and electronic tallying system failed us tremendously during the 2013 general elections. The biometric kit itself cost the taxpayers close to sh10 billion only to result to failure. This fiasco begs the question whether Kenyans are getting maximum value for their money.

For other African countries, the DRC and Ghana spent a whopping $360 million and $124 million respectively for their elections in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Of these costs, DRC spent $58 million and Ghana spent $76 million on biometrics. This is way below the $114 million spent by Kenya in procuring the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits, which was inflated from an initial $46 million. Compared to Kenya’s per voter spending on elections at $20, Ghana spent only $1 per registered voter while DRC spent $12 per registered voter.

In India, the 2014 General Election is estimated to have cost $5 billion translating to roughly $5 per person and $6 per registered voter. In developed democracies, the per capita spending on elections is estimated at $1 and $3, but this is not always the case. For example, the 39th General Election in Canada in 2006 cost $191 million translating to $8 per registered voter and $6 per person. For the 2012 elections in the USA, an estimated $7 billion was used in the elections translating to $48 per voter and $22 per person, the highest in the country in recent times.

Therefore, when it comes to per capita spending on the General Elections in Kenya, in comparison to other countries, the costs are still substantially high. In fact, the Kenyan elections since 2013 are considered among the most expensive (per person) in the world. There is hence a need to establish measures to reduce these costs. These austerity measures should sought out unnecessary expenditure in the electoral process and rectify them. We should identify the anomalies and gaps that lead to the inflated costs and address them.  As it remains, such huge expenditure in elections while only 35% of the population registered to vote, compared with that of India at 67%, is unnecessary and the extra money could be reallocated to develop other sectors.

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