THE Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), is facing myriad challenges regarding procurement, structural hierarchy, financial and time constraints, as well as fears of failing to deliver, ahead of the highly anticipated February 2015 poll.
An authoritative source who spoke to the Sunday Express on Friday said so serious were the concerns of the IEC staff that they had even approached some civic society organisations for advice on how to deal with the challenges.
According to the source, the staffers fear they would not meet deadlines associated with IEC procurement procedures, such as the 30-day tendering, 15-day calling-off and five-day evaluation periods, for a tender to be completed.
Hence, he added, the workers were of the opinion that it would help if IEC procurement laws were to be relaxed to “accommodate selective tendering”.
“The workers said they were concerned that due to time-constraints, they might not meet their targets and get equipment on time, hence the proposal for selective tendering which is quick,” the source said.
“But because they say this coming election is likely to be sensitive and highly contested, they fear that if some decisions are just imposed, tempers could flare.”
The workers, the source said, fear that if parliament is dissolved in December, procurement is going to be hampered because suppliers would have closed for the Christmas holidays.
Failure by the Ministry of Public Service, the source added, to approve the electoral commission’s hierarchy structure, also contributed to the IEC woes, as employees tend to be insubordinate “because it is not clear who people answer to in each department”.
Budgetary constraints, he added, could also derail preparations for the elections, if the Ministry of Finance persists with delays in releasing funds to the IEC.
“The Ministry of Finance, according to the IEC staff, tends to delay in releasing badly needed funds for the commission to function and deliver on time,” the source said.
“The staff fear that as a result, they might not deliver according to expectations, despite the commissioners’ declaration that the electoral body is ready for elections.”
Contacted for comment yesterday, IEC Public Relations Officer, Tuoe Hantši told the Sunday Express, that although some of the claims were true “some are just being exaggerated”.
According to Mr Hantši, it was not a secret that the IEC commission comprising Chairman Mahapela Lehohla, Makase Nyaphisi and ‘Mamosebi Pholo, had already relayed some of these concerns to Southern African Development Community (SADC) Facilitator to Lesotho, Cyril Ramaphosa.
“The commissioners have already communicated their concerns to the facilitator, and were clear in the meeting they had, that only if some of these were ironed out, can the IEC deliver a smooth election,” Mr Hantši said.
The IEC spokesperson, who is also secretary of political leaders meetings within the electoral commission, then touched on the procurement issue, telling the Sunday Express that in an October 2 meeting with political leaders, the commissioners “put forward a proposal that some laws with regard to procurement should be relaxed”.
“They told the facilitator and politicians that for the IEC to have a smooth election, some laws needed to be relaxed to meet some of the time-constraints,” Mr Hantši said.
“The commissioners also raised the concern that if parliament is dissolved in December, it was an awkward period as that is when suppliers close for the Christmas holidays.”
Meanwhile, Mr Hantši added political leaders told the same meeting that funds should be made readily available for the IEC to avoid complaints and assist the electoral commission in “delivering a smooth election”.
“The politicians encouraged the commission to turn every stone, knock on every door to seek assistance, in order to achieve a successful, transparent and credible election and not strive for less,” Mr Hantši said.
“The commission also revealed in that meeting that an election plan and a budget had already been submitted to the finance ministry.”
Mr Hantši added another issue raised in the meeting was a defective voters’ roll, which he said the commission told political leaders it would have to be used “as is” due to the limited time in terms of establishing a new one.
“The commission said due to time-constraints, a new voter-register could not be established, but that political parties would have to settle for the old one as elections were just around the corner,” Mr Hantši said.
The politicians, Mr Hantši noted, said they supported the current voters’ roll, but were also of the opinion that chiefs should be engaged to help in cleaning it, adding “they also undertook to assist in the process”.
“The IEC was also encouraged to deploy staff throughout the country to help speed-up the process, as well as visiting schools to register new 18-year-olds for the election,” Mr. Hants’i said.
On the question of the IEC chain of command, Mr Hantši said the new commission, which was inaugurated in January this year, had also raised questions about the public service ministry’s failure to “approve the new structure”.
“The new commission has admitted that when it assumed office, the structure had not yet been approved, that it’s working tirelessly to ensure that it’s approved,” Mr Hantši said.
“But it is not a secret that here and there, workers, especially those who are disgruntled, will always have their own issues and raise concerns.”
Efforts by the Sunday Express to solicit further comment from IEC Acting Director of Elections, Mphasa Mokhochane, drew a blank as his mobile phone could not be reached.
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