Two related issues have re-ignited the anti-corruption debate. One is the order from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) that State officers should not engage in harambees as it is against the law. Secondly is the decision by the President not to assent to amendments to the Public Officer Ethics Act (2003) that would have led to executive office bearers to take personal responsibility when adversely mentioned in corruption cases.
Kenya cannot afford to continue making anti-corruption efforts without actions being seen to work. Periodic reports from the Auditor General reveal glaring embezzlement of public funds. For instance, the report for the financial year 2012/13 notes “….out of the audited three hundred and forty three (343) statements only forty (41) statements or 12 % had a clean (unqualified) audit opinion while one hundred and seventy two (172) or 50%, forty five (45) or 13% and eighty five (85) or 25% statements had qualified, adverse and disclaimer of opinion.”
Thirteen per cent as adverse means that the ‘financial statements are so material and pervasive’ that concluding the financial statements will be misleading. Recently, Parliament has raised concerns over failure of public officers to provide critical documents needed for auditing. They stated that the officers who do not provide the documents will be held responsible.
Taking responsibility and rule of law is the main focus. On the one hand, Parliamentarians want other State and public officers to take responsibility of actions of commission and omission when managing public funds. On the other hand, Parliamentarians want a free hand to seek money from State corporations to facilitate participation in harambees. The concern raised by the EACC is that they compel heads of state corporations to give them money to use in harambees where they are chief guests. Governors are also part of the State officers EACC wants to check. .
In their expected callous fashion, parliamentarians have stated that they will disregard the directive. This is very unfortunate as they are not above the law. It is Parliament that birthed these laws and for them to decide which ones to respect and those to disregard is a clear sign they only want others to take responsibility other than them.
Rule of law restricts discretion and hinders wrongful exercise of power. It is also expected for mutual trust to prevail between all the arms of government and the people. Certainty of rule of law is critical in realizing development and attracting foreign investments.
The President should also not be seen to be protecting executive office holders. Stating that if they take responsibility will be discriminatory is insufficient. So far, not much has been done to fight the vice, apart from reshuffling finance and procurement officers in government. Rule of law should undergird the service rendered by all public officials. If they exercised their duties as expected there would be no need for harambees to win social capital. Your thoughts?