Petitioners in the ongoing petition at the Supreme Court – Njonjo Mue , Khelef Khalifa and their lawyers, were left stunned beyond words when IEBC slapped them with a Sh80 million fee for services they had requested.
Through their lawyer Harun Ndubi, the petitioners had asked the court to order IEBC to provide a physical copy of the voters’ register, on top of the already provided soft copy.
Chief Justice David Maraga granted their request and ordered the IEBC to avail the same, but at the cost of the petitioner.
It finally seemed like the petitioners would put their hands on the voluminous document, until IEBC lawyers sent them the figure they were expected to pay.. Kenya Shillings 80 million.
“Kindly note that our client the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, is ready and willing to immediately comply with the court order in issue subject only to you facilitating the costs… For avoidance of doubt, the amount is Kenya Shillings Eighty Million (Ksh.80,000,000),” IEBC replied through lawyer Lucy Kambuni.
According to the IEBC, the entire register consists of 450,000 pages, and it would have to be printed (not photocopied). This kind of printing can only occur in a factory setting and probably on a special paper. It is also possible that printing of the register is contractually supposed to be carried out by Al Ghurair.
For Sh80 million, the process would be fast tracked and completed in 2 days.
This expensive version of the register would apparently include details of the everyone’s biometrics. But there’s a cheaper version that would omit some technical details, and would be availed at a small fee of Sh20 million.
Of course the petitioners opted to abandon the whole idea and opt for the soft copy on a hard drive.
At Sh80 million, printing of each page translates to Sh177. Obviously Kenyans had a lot to say about this, and rightly so considering the market price for photocopying is about 2 bob per page, and 10 bob per page when printing.
Realistically, to photocopy 450,000 pages, you would need a whole army of staff and photocopier machines, and would still probably take weeks to complete the exercise.
But 80 million still sounds ridiculously high.
In July, IEBC was on the spot for not making the voter register freely available. That’s when they came out and declared that the hard copy version of the register would be availed to anyone at a cost of Sh20,000.
This fee raised a lot questions, especially from the opposition, and most Kenyans thought it was too expensive to come from a publicly funded body. Looking back, it now seems very unlikely that the figure was for the entire register. Perhaps the Sh20,000 was for a particular polling station or centre?
Indeed, Nasa CEO Norman Magaya yesterday revealed that IEBC quoted a figure of Sh17 million when he requested for the entire register in July.
In July this year I wrote to IEBC requesting for a certified copy of the register. The CEO @ezraCHILOBA wrote to me saying it will cost Ksh17m to print a single copy of the register. Today in court @IEBCKenya revised the figure to ksh80m. Crooks!
— Norman Magaya (@amugira) November 15, 2017
Anyway, as they say, Democracy is Expensive.