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IEBC lawyers pocket Sh446m fees in poll suits


IEBC lawyers pocket Sh446m fees in poll suits

Thursday April 20 2023

IEBC CEO Marjan Hussein Marjan while appearing before the National assembly committee on Diaspora affairs and migrant workers on March 14, 2023. PHOTO | LUCY WANJIRU | NMG

Lawyers appearing for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) pocketed Sh445.5 million in legal fees following last year’s disputed election results, a report from the Controller of Budget shows.

The money was paid in the three months to December, and came after Kenyans went to the polls in the August 9 General Elections won by President William Ruto.

In the period between July and September last year, IEBC spent Sh70 million in legal fees, pushing the total spending for litigation in the first six months of the fiscal year to Sh515.56 million.

A big chunk of this cash went to lawyers who represented IEBC in the 2022 presidential election petition filed by the Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Coalition candidate Raila Odinga.

Read: IEBC gets Sh8.81bn financial boost for August elections

In the last 2017 elections, lawyers were paid up to Sh202 million by the IEBC to defend the commission in courts across the country, while in 2013 they pocketed Sh390 million.

Spending on legal fees by the IEBC tends to spike in the electioneering period, pointing to the high cost of servicing Kenya’s democracy.

The IEBC is a respondent in all the cases filed challenging the outcome of an election. The electoral body is, therefore, forced to spend millions of shillings in hiring advocates to defend it in the cases.

Lawsuits from aggrieved candidates emanate from all the six positions— MCAs, Senator, Members of the National Assembly, Woman Representative, governor and President— which were introduced by the 2010 Constitution.

The National Treasury allocated Sh1.2 million for legal fees under the IEBC’s Legal and Public Affairs department. This is an increase from Sh859.3 million that was allocated for legal fees in the 2017 elections.

IEBC went to the Supreme Court twice in the 2017 elections after the Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling, nullified former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s win.

Kenya has held elections three times under the current Constitution which was promulgated in 2010.

In all three polls, the IEBC has been forced to defend itself before the Supreme Court, a situation that has seen it accumulate huge pending bills in legal fees, according to a document IEBC Chief Executive Officer Marjan Hussein Marjan presented to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly last month.

IEBC’s pending bills to lawyers are estimated at around Sh3.74 billion, which is 85 of the entire Sh4.4 billion pending bills owed to various suppliers as of March 10, 2023.

A report tabled in Parliament in March showed that lawyers who represented the electoral agency in the 2022 presidential election petition would together pocket Sh567.3 million.

Read: IEBC caps Presidential election spending at Sh4.4bn

The law firms are part of the 148 on the shortlist of the commission to offer legal services.

The IEBC hired the services of 28 law firms to defend its interests in the last presidential election petition.

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