Electoral agency gets Sh21.7b for August elections

Thursday, February 17th, 2022 01:48 | By

by Jeremiah Kipngetich and Noel Wandera

The National Assembly’s Budget and Appropriations Committee has approved Sh21.7 billion for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission in the next financial year, an allocation that includes funds to hold the August 9 General Election.

This, however, is Sh5.6 billion short of the Sh27.3 billion the electoral agency had demanded for it to hold the polls and cover activities after the elections, raising concern whether the deficit could impact IEBC’s ability to hold free and fair elections in under six months.  

For the coming elections, the committee chaired by Kieni MP Kanini Kega gave the electoral agency Sh15.7 billion to cover the pre-poll activities and D-day events.   

This is part of Kenya’s ambitious Sh3.32 trillion budget, which comes amid underlying social, political and economic risks on the back of a pandemic and elections.

Coming on the back of dwindling economic fortunes which saw the Covid-19 stagnate the economy, the possibility of Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) missing targets for the coming fiscal year looms large. 

“Budget ceiling for Financial Year 2022/23 is estimated at Sh3.32 trillion. Of this proposed ceiling, Sh2.02 trillion is the ceiling for the Executive; Sh38.48 billion is the ceiling for Parliament; and Sh18.88 billion is the ceiling for the Judiciary,” said the committee.

The team, which presented its report on Tuesday, also noted that the Consolidated Fund Services (CFS) budget is estimated at Sh864.13 billion while the contingency fund has a proposed allocation of Sh5 billion. According to Churchill Ogutu, an economist at IC Group, this year’s budget policy statement will be read amidst “a protracted electioneering period that dampens demand in the economy, coupled with the newer and riskier Covid-19 variants that may warrant renewed containment measures”.

Ogutu, who spoke to People Daily yesterday, also said the medium term revenue strategy needs to be in place to back up the policy proposals of raising revenue to the target levels in the upcoming fiscal year.

In order to meet its targets amidst shortfalls, the authorities have over the years been known to pluck low-hanging fruits, by raising taxes, a proposition Albert Bwire, a lecturer at the United States International University, says has little room to wiggle through given the hard economic times.

“If you increase taxes, Kenyans will complain of being overtaxed. In most cases, they want to put taxes on salaried people. If this is done, people will either evade or avoid,” said Bwire, advocating for a tax reduction to achieve higher levels of compliance.

Unpaid taxes

Commentators reckon that to forestall such an eventuality, KRA will need to build on its revamped revenue collection strategies, which have seen the taxman employ extensive use of data and intelligence to unearth unpaid taxes and use of technology to simplify tax processes.

IEBC’s allocation is part of the funds for the electoral agency to hold free and fair elections and ensure a smooth transition from the outgoing administration to the next. President Uhuru Kenyatta’s term ends after the polls and the commission is expected to mid-wife a smooth handover to the next Head of State. Election agency’s allocation is a top-up of the Sh14.5 billion that the commission had already received this financial year as it attempted to put in place foolproof electoral systems ahead of a presidential contest that is expected to be tightly fought between leading protagonists Raila Odinga of Azimio La Umoja movement and Deputy President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance.   

Earlier, the agency had said it required close to Sh40 billion to ensure fair elections but so far it has not been able to get what it wanted.

For the anticipated court petitions after the next polls, IEBC has received Sh2.2 billion. To acquire ICT equipment for the polls it has been given an additional Sh3 billion while it got Sh654.9 million for voter education and partnerships. 

The agency also was given Sh165.7 million for research and development and Sh85.4 million for human resource and administration.

From this year’s allocation, the commission will spend Sh4.7 billion to settle pending bills. This includes Sh1.77 billion for election materials, Sh588 million for Covid compliance, Sh197 million for voter education and Sh2.2 million for ICT.

“The committee cognisant of its oversight mandate directs the commission to submit before the committee primary documents in support of the pending bills, especially on ICT and legal bills for consideration and scrutiny to ascertain whether the Auditor General should undertake a special audit,” said the House team.

Committee is also pushing for the extension of voter registration despite IEBC closing the door for the exercise so as to get adequate time to spruce its voter register.

In the last registration exercise, the electoral body only managed to register 1,031,645 new voters against a target of 4.5 million.

“The committee noted there is a need for the commission to undertake continuous voter registration to guarantee the citizens their right to participate in electoral processes,” the committee suggested.

Big beneficiary

The Ministry of Education was another big beneficiary as it has been allocated Sh2.5 billion to recruit 5,000 teachers in the next FY as the government attempts to cut the shortage estimated at 100,000 teachers.

Teachers Service Commission and union officials have been pushing for the recruitment of more teachers to ensure successful implementation of the 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary school.

Despite the furore around the Competency-Based Curriculum, the programme got a thumbs-up from MPs as it got

Sh4 billion for its ongoing implementation. 

Members of the Kenya Kwanza Alliance including Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi have been poking holes on the new curriculum promising to scrap it they get elected to office in August.

National Police Service Commission has been angling for more money to recruit officers but their request fell on deaf ears. The plan was to recruit 10,000 the next financial year and a similar number in the 2023/24 budget year.  For the first recruitment it requested Sh6.4 billion which seems to have been rebuffed by the committee, as I did not allocate any money for it.

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