Entries from December 28th, 2015

Loopholes in the New National Government Constituencies Development Fund

Posted by on 28th December 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

The president recently signed into law the Bill that regularizes the Constituency Development Fund (CDF). The new CDF act known as National Government Constituencies Development Fund sponsored by Eldama Ravine’s MP Moses Lessonet was unanimously passed by members of the National Assembly. This means that the constituencies will continue to receive CDF funds. The new law makes the funds a mandate of the MPs with monies being used to supplement national government development projects in the counties. The fund will not be used to fund devolved functions.

The Bill has been remodeled in such a way that it allows for citizens participation in how the funds are used. The local MP has the mandate to form a 5 member voluntary committee who will attend fund meetings to ensure equitable distribution of the monies. MPs will not be part of the committees but will have one member from their office representing them. The MP will further allow members of the public to share their views by forming citizen based project oversight committees bi-annually. The final fund committees in all constituencies will need to be approved by the National Assembly meaning MPs influence their membership. The fund has previously been marred by corruption and embezzlement allegations leading to calls for greater accountability and non-interference.

Earlier in the year civil society had called on the High Court to declare CDF unconstitutional as it offends the division of power and the Public Finance in the allocation of public funds. The previous Act was outdated as it did not align itself with the new constitution. There have been further calls for the funds to be implemented at a sub-county level as opposed to the constituency level in the spirit of respecting the division of powers. There needs to be clear division between the functions of the National government and that of MPs. MPs main function remains as legislation, representation and oversight; not the implementation of national government projects at the Constituency level.

The Senate spoke out against lack of inclusion in the new CDF Bill vowing to challenge its implementation in court. The High Court had previously issued a ruling calling for The Senate to be included in the revisions of the Bill but the National Assembly and the President in signing the Bill failed to honour this. If the fund is to be initiated at a constituency level, then members of the Senate ought to be involved as they are the overseers of devolution and constituency functions impact the county as well. It will be a matter of great interest to see whether the Senate will make good its word in suing over the lack of inclusion in the making of the Bill.

How would you like the CDF to be managed at the local level? Please send us your thoughts.

Lessons from the People’s Shujaaz Awards

Posted by on 22nd December 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

The just concluded People’s Shujaaz Awards offered Kenyans a fresh lens through which to look at Parliamentarians. Despite the despondency that Kenyans show when a thought on Parliament crosses their mind, People’s Shujaaz brought a ray hope.

These are the few lessons we learnt from the campaign:

Lesson one, there is demand for Parliament to change how it operates. The Legislature has to change the way it communicates to the people. Parliament needs to re-engineer its image. For a long time now Parliament’s website has not been up to standard. There is need for Parliament to modify itself and embrace new technology to communicate efficiently and effectively. To date Parliament lacks social media outlets for real time updates.

Lesson two, is that there is a group of Kenyans who have a permanent negative attitude towards Parliamentarians. They perceive them as a lot that is irredeemably greedy and nothing good can come out of them. This group of Kenyans remained skeptical and saw the Awards as just another dubious attempt to try and sanitize Parliament. This shows Parliament’s herculean task to try and redeem its image and endear themselves to Kenyans.

If this negative attitude prevails, there is a risk of blurring the good work that some Parliamentarians have done. It is true that there is a clique of self-centered MPs but not all of them.

Lesson three, from personal interactions with a number of MPs, we found that it is difficult for an individual MP to have their bill, motion or legislation reach the floor of the House for discussion. For this reason, there are so many bills that are pending with the legislation office in Parliament because they haven’t found favor. Sometimes the whole process is political and if one is against the establishment their bill may not see the light of the day. Bills, motions or petitions that propose progressive ideas may be hijacked and turned into a policy paper by the Executive so as to draw away credit from the proposer of the Bill.

Lesson four, Parliamentarians are anxious to receive positive coverage but the media is obsessed with negativity. There is a good number of Parliamentarians who burn for this country. Those who have proposed brilliant ideas but no one is there to tell their story. These type of leaders need to be celebrated, someone needs to give Kenyans hope by showcasing the good things that happen in Parliament amidst the negativity.

Lesson five, Kenyans appreciate good work. In the few three weeks that the online and SMS voting was live, Kenyans voted in large numbers. Due to the gap in telling good stories, in most cases most of them were surprised that good MPs still exist, and appreciated the good issues they advocated for. In the end, even if mainstream media may not report everything. Parliament’s communication office needs to find a way of telling Parliament’s stories to citizens.

Has your MP protected your interests this year? Please write and tell us about it.

MPs Own Enemies in Fighting Corruption

Posted by on 14th December 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

The corruption song has been sung tirelessly by Kenyans for years; from the Goldenberg Scandal, to the Kazi Kwa Vijana Initiatives and recently the Eurobond Saga and the NYS millions. The need to fight corruption has been reiterated over and over but the government has been a toothless, barking dog. The current government has continuously made promises about curbing the heightened graft in the country but little has happened thus far. With the recent Jamhuri day celebrations, the president once again declared his renewed zeal to fight corruption as the country turns 52.

One of the chief challenges in fighting graft in this country has been the politicizing of corruption, turning it into a war of political allegiances and ethnic inclinations.  Attempts to root out those caught in corrupt allegations and corruption scandals have been reduced to personal vendettas, aimed at drawing attention away from the seriousness of the situations. MPs have been complicit, cherry picking sides based on which political parties they belong to, while defending endorsing persons caught in corruption allegations. This is especially true during political rallies.

MPs first allegiance remains to the people of Kenya whom they are elected to serve. If billions of shillings are being embezzled, their role should be to identify these loopholes, seal them and ensure that the responsible parties have their day in court. However, when MPs turn corruption scandals into episodes of victimization, where certain politicians and parties are alleged to be victims of witch hunts aimed at bringing them down, they minimize the gravity of the situation rendering the fight against corruption pointless .When the war on corruption is falsely made out to be a personal attack, it only works towards further polarizing the people and doing little to defeat corruption. Meanwhile, the corrupt continue to get away with it as ordinary Kenyans suffer.

MPs ought to be on the forefront in this war on graft. Instead of resorting to the everyday inter party back and forth accusations that bear no consequence, their focus should be on strengthening and bringing to task bodies, institutions and parties charged with investigating corruption such as the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission, to do their job.  Instead of frustrating such institutions and belittling their attempts at fighting graft, MPs should be in a position to offer support  to them whether through legislation or otherwise as a way of creating more efficient anti corruption systems and  fast tracking necessary prosecutions. MPs should focus more on facilitating evidence collection and unearthing truths where possible in corruption cases. Such measures shift the narrative from mere rhetoric to actual efforts at fighting the corruption.

So long as MPs continue to politicize the fight against corruption, they will continue to be their own worst enemies in restoring the integrity of Parliament and that of the country .They must strive to uphold high standards and refrain from allowing party and personal interests from blinding them against corruption.

To Check Committee Corruption; Let’s return to the Basics

Posted by on 7th December 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

Parliament has betrayed its social contract with Kenyans! It is difficult to understand why the most powerful institution established by the 2010 Constitution has consistently performed dismally.

Sadly, Wanjiku’s supposed guardian angel has allegedly turned on her by plundering her meagre resources. Since 2013 the 11th Parliament has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. This tendency risks obscuring some of the good work that few Parliamentarians have done.

Specifically, Article 94 (4) mandates Parliament to be the protector of the Constitution and the chief promoter of good governance. Most of this work is mainly conducted in the Committees which are established by Article 124 of the Constitution. It is important to note that Committees are given powers equivalent to that of the High Court. This is just an example of how powerful Parliament is.

However, it is dispiriting when Kenyans realize that these Committees have been transformed into corruption dens. Rather than being avenues of entrenching good governance and fortifying vulnerable public resources from greedy civil servants; Parliamentarians have used committees to undertake absurd local and international trips as well as conniving with corrupt civil servants to solicit bribes.

Just last week, the Health and Catering committee visited some countries in Africa, Asia and Europe for benchmarking. Any average Kenyan will consider this ridiculous and wasteful. For certain, of what value will this trip be to Kenyans? These type of trips can only be inspired by selfishness.

The Health and Catering committee absurdities remind us of the misconduct of the disbanded Public Accounts Committee that “allegedly” took bribes to cover up corrupt individuals. The ever increasing  misconduct by Parliamentarians demonstrates the necessity to have a Parliament watchdog; and also gives us an opportunity to reflect on why they oppose such a move. The Powers and Privileges committee after investigating the Misconduct in PAC recommended creation of such an office but it was rejected unanimously by Chairpersons of other Committees.

In addition, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) recently gave a damning report incriminating the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) over corruption in Parliament. The PSC which is chaired by the Speaker of National Assembly pays former MPs illegally, pays ‘cooked’ mileage and sitting allowances of MPs who never attended sittings. This is gross abuse of trust that Kenyans have confided to the House. This raises doubts on whether Parliament can be trusted in its oversight duties.

It is high time that Parliament removes the veil of secrecy around it and opens up to independent scrutiny. Particularly, committee business in all its aspects, ought to be accessible to members of the public. On the other hand Kenyans need to have the plenary and committee attendance records of MPs plus their individual votes on issues. This is due to chronic absenteeism that leads to lack of quorum and consequently delays passing important of legislation.

What else do you think should change to check corruption in Parliament?

In Checking Corruption: Parliament ought to do what the President didn’t do

Posted by on 1st December 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s cabinet reshuffle this week was met with split reactions from Kenyans. One side questioning the Constitutionality of the appointments while the other praising the move as symbolic of renewed zeal in the war against graft. Both arguments raise an array of issues that Parliament is expected to navigate when reviewing the recent Cabinet Secretaries appointments.

To begin with, President Kenyatta seemed to have created a problem in an attempt to solve one. The appointments risk being rejected by Parliament since they do not meet the two third gender rule enshrined in Article 27 (8) of the Constitution. The cabinet as it is, is less two women. In a country where women are under-represented in positions of leadership the President could be sending wrong signals. This violation comes before Parliament legislates laws to implement “the two third principle” in elective positions.

The other Constitutional issues that the appointments raise, is the inclusion of politicians in the Cabinet. The spirit of the 2010 Constitution in Article 152 (3) imagines a Cabinet of impartial professionals who lack personal political interests. The Constitution in a way “prohibited” the presence of politicians in the cabinet to cushion public appointments from becoming a tool of patronage and clientilism. A critical look of Kenyatta’s cabinet shows more of political calculations rather than readiness in war on graft.

Additionally, Kenyans through Parliament would want to know if the new appointees are capable of carrying out the duties entrusted to them. And more importantly, if they are clean from corruption. In this “re-energized” war on graft, there isn’t a room of taking chances, Kenyans want action now! Parliamentarians must be diligent in the vetting process and toss aside anyone’s whose integrity is in doubt.

On the other hand, the proposed increase of the number of state departments from 26 to 41 and the collapsing of procurement departments in ministries and state departments under them may improve government efficiency and check corruption. It is now clear that the Principal Secretaries will be in charge of state departments and they shall be the people to take responsibility in case of misappropriation of public funds.

Another proposal tabled, is that of shifting the budget office from the Treasury to the Presidency. On the face of it, the proposal is good, after all the buck stops with the President. But, it must comply with the laws of the land, specifically, the Public Finance Management Act, 2012. The president might have borrowed this from the US where the White House has the office of Management and budget, but in Kenya’s context this proposal must be reflected upon, deeply.

Let it not be forgotten, Kenyans, some of whom doubt the President’s commitment to the Constitution shall be waiting to see whether Parliament undertakes its job thoroughly. They can only blame themselves in future if they do a poor job and allow compromise in the integrity of ministerial offices.

 

Recognizing MPs advocating for issues of great public interest is only fair

Posted by on 23rd November 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

The People’s Shujaaz Awards 2015 are here with us for the second year running and it’s fulfilling to realize that indeed there are Kenyan politicians in Parliament who are working to represent their constituents and the general voter interests.  In a country plagued with massive corruption, incompetent leaders and bad governance systems, we hardly take the time to notice when progressive contributions are made in the both the National Assembly and The Senate.

The focus on the negative political news that continues to saturate our traditional media and digital platforms has somewhat eclipsed and blocked us from taking notice of important legislation being discussed in Parliament and the parliamentarians championing these issues. In as much as we must keep the government on its toes when it comes to corruption and poor governance, we must not forget to highlight the good work by some of our politicians.

People’s Shujaaz Awards acknowledge the progress that the country is making when it comes to issues that affect majority of the public. It’s imperative that Kenyans realize that Parliamentary business as captured in bills presented and discussed as well committee reports, motions and petitions tabled in Parliament have short, medium and long time effects on the state of affairs in the country. Repercussions of some of these Bills can be felt immediately and do contribute to an improvement in the state of things.

For example in 2015 Kenya was ranked 108 out of 189 countries in World Bank’s 2015 Ease of Doing Business Report, up from position 129 last year. A number of Business Bills including; The Companies Bill 2015, Insolvency Bill 2015 and The Special Economic Zones Bill, 2015 can be linked to these improvements. In the Financial sector, The Budget Policy Statement, proposals made provisions for Treasury to ensure sufficient public participation during the budget making process and an increase in funding in the office of the auditor general for more effective output. The Excise Duty Bill contribution by calls for friendly excise tax rates, for instance by Ali Rasso Dido and The Supplementary Appropriations (No. 2) Bill 2015 proposes that money put under a particular agency, it should be spent by only that entity

Other sectors that saw impactful contributions include Health where devolved healthcare has been a cause of concern around the country. The Health Bill 2015 seconded by Naomi Shabaan seeks to revert the management of level 5 hospitals to the central government for improved efficiency and it also seeks have all doctors and nurses managed from a central point like teachers. The Mining Bill seeks to improve royalties collection in mining areas and reinvestment into communities in those areas. Other sectors that have seen impactful contributions include; Institutional Oversight, Mining, Access to Justice, Devolution, Education, Special Interests, Security, Progressive Contributions and Land.

Voting opened on 17th November 2015 and will run all the way till 9th December 2015 at midnight. To view a list of the nominees and to vote visit here.

You can also vote for your favourites via the SMS see the attached poster for details. (Poster details)

 

 

Rule of Law Must be Written in Hearts and Minds to Check Corruption!

Posted by on 13th November 2015

Categories: Corruption

Presently, the problem of Kenya is not lack of laws, we have enough of them. If they were to be implemented many leaders, politicians, their families and cronies would be in jail. Wherever you look at, from Counties to the National Government corruption glares at you in the face without blinking. In Kenya we have socialized corruption such that the acceptance level of it is really high. Kenyans across the political divide have all become either active supporters and beneficiaries or unworried and cooperative victims.

In terms of world’s corruption ranking by Transparency International, Kenya has slipped further down to 145th out of 174 nations, from 136 in 2013. The Auditor General has identified  dozens of corruption cases in procurement, in all government levels, where the prices of goods and services procured have been inflated to mind boggling prices.

The violation of law through omission or commission goes on despite the establishment of a Public Procurement Oversight Authority (PPOA). PPOA is expected to ensure procurement procedures established under the Act are complied with. However the persistent corruption in the procurement process is an indication that this authority is nondescript and may not sanitize the public procurement.

To curb run away corruption in this sector the PPOA needs to ensure that company owners who win tenders can be identified. This is because public funds are being lost in briefcase companies that are allegedly set up by senior people in the government to siphon Kenya’s limited resources.

Since the tabling of the “list of shame” by President Kenyatta, coverage of corruption by the media has been on the increase. Even so, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) that is supposed to make heads roll has continued to drag its feet in bringing the implicated persons to book. This has resulted into a mixture of an outcry and an appeal to public officials to “steal just a little’, painting Kenya as a country in an irredeemable crisis.

When Kenyans gave themselves the 2010 Constitution, they wanted a new order where stealing of public funds would be a thing of the past. In this social contract, Chapter six gives a clear description of how people entrusted with government offices should conduct themselves. But today there is a gap between what we wanted and what we have so far.

For full implementation of the Constitution to become a reality, Kenyans must embrace the letter and spirit of the Constitution in their minds and hearts. It is impossible to root out corruption without everyone’s participation.  You can show your zero tolerance to corruption through “small’ acts.

Corruption is destroying Kenya and its impact on our lives is evident from hospitals to our roads that have transformed into death traps. We elect people with questionable morals and complain afterwards.

Kenyans need to stop worshipping their leaders which makes them feel infallible and raise the bar of leadership. It is about time we borrow from other parts of the world like Thailand, China, Singapore and Malaysia. Where corruption is treated with the highest contempt and sternest actions including capital punishment.

Take advantage of the New Roles and Opportunities in Budget making

Posted by on 6th November 2015

Categories: Budget

Kenyans would be surprised to know the 2016/17 government budgetary process is already under way. In many ways, the current discussion on the 2013/14 budget implementation and audit reports distracts from the task at hand.

Officially, the budget process starts in August of the prior year. From August to December, Treasury must have ministerial consultations and conduct public hearings on the Budget Policy Statement (BPS) before submitting it to Parliament.

The budget making process was one area completely reformed by the 2010 Constitution. Previously, budget making was exclusively an executive role and the  Finance Minister single handedly determined the budgetary allocation for various sectors. This rendered the budget a political tool used as a stick and carrot.

Presently, the real power in determining budgetary allocations rests with Parliament and the citizens; treasury has been reduced to the executive’s “diplomat.” Wanjiku was placed at the centre of the budgetary decision making process through public participation. Like Treasury, Parliament must also facilitate public participation on the budget before coming up with the final edition.

In addition, the budget making process has been lengthened under the Public Finance Management Act to ensure Treasury, Parliament and the public consult sufficiently. These monumental reforms were made to shield Kenyans from opaqueness that resulted in looting of public coffers.

Regardless of these new roles and opportunities, a huge gap remains due to lack of national discourse during the budget making process. Both Parliament and members of the public have missed the different opportunities in the last two years.

For example, in the 2015/16 budget making process, Parliament was on recess in January and February when the discussion should have been at the peak. Refusing to set enough time to debate the budget, obscures the role of Parliament and renders mute the spirit of our Constitution.

For your information, no MP should complain that the government was too ambitious in setting its budgetary allocations. All Parliamentarians have a chance to influence the budget which they often abdicate. Their show of powerlessness when talking to the public is in bad taste.

Parliament should set enough time for debates, since informed discussions, create adequate public awareness. A thorough budget making process would help seal the loopholes corrupt officials use.

Ideally, the public should know the allocations of various ministries, departments and agencies, but this has not been the case. This knowledge would help them manage their expectations of each Ministry and empower them to ask questions when their expectations aren’t met.

Kenyans expect Parliament to remain alert during the whole budget making process.  Parliament should use implementation and audit reports to inform future budgetary allocations. In order to prevent the pilferage of public funds in the budget implementation stage, the office of the Controller of Budget should be strengthened  to submit quarterly budget implementation reports on time. This will aid in early identification of corrupt tendencies in government agencies both at the National and County level.

 

Opposition has let Kenyans down in Parliament

Posted by on 2nd November 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

Since the 11th Parliament was sworn into office, the opposition has proved to be rudderless and tactless in keeping the ruling coalition in check. While they are outnumbered by the Jubilee coalition, CORD has not shown that even with fewer members, they can still contribute qualitatively to enriching the August House.

This has been most vivid in the National Assembly which undertakes national functions. In the House, it only fiercely fought to chair the Public Investments Committee (PIC) and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Even from these committees, nothing concrete has come out to prove that they are aware of their responsibilities and are undertaking them diligently.

The Constitution birthed a pure presidential system. This system bequeaths the legislature not only independence but also a core role in representing people’s interests in the House especially because it is detached from the executive.

The Opposition’s tactlessness has been seen in their continuous walkouts from debates. Last week, they walked out of the National Assembly to paralyze the approval of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s memorandum on the Excise Duty Bill, 2015 arguing that the sh10 tax per litre of fruit juices will make the commodity too expensive for the poor in the country to whom juice is already a luxury. But the walkout did not stop the Jubilee lawmakers from approving the memorandum which passed with just a simple majority.

In May this year, they also walked out over the tussle between Cord and Jubilee coalitions over the formation of the Public Accounts and the Public Investments committees. Again in September 2013, the MPs stormed out of early stages of the special sitting that had been convened to discuss Adan Duale’s motion that sought to withdraw Kenya’s membership at the International Criminal Court.

The opposition has also been discredited by graft claims which have raised concerns on the coalition’s commitment to offer alternative solutions to the myriad problems facing Kenyans. One would remember well the corruption and bribery allegations which involved MPs in the PAC and Agriculture committees.

One issue which has stood out has been competing interests among the Opposition coalition members. This has rendered them incapable of having a common ground on issues of public interest. Their members seem to be more concerned about the 2017 elections.

The tyranny of numbers that Jubilee enjoys mean that the best way CORD would have their voice heard is to be instructively vocal with quality arguments that offer alternative solutions or propositions on issues. For instance, on the Excise Duty Bill, 2015, they ought to have produced evidence of numbers indicating how exactly the poor will be affected.

Kenyans will also remember how CORD MPs conducted themselves when arguing against the Security Laws (Amendment) Bill 2014. While they failed to get their way, they moved to court where their voice was heard and determined, to their favor and that of Kenyans in general.

Corruption and the current financial crunch affecting the country could have been better handled by the opposition taking its role robustly in Parliament. It needs to realize that three years into office, they are yet to record tangible contributions and they need to wake up.

National Assembly must reign in poor financial probity in government

Posted by on 26th October 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

Revelations by the Controller of Budget that the Eurobond proceeds were deposited in an offshore account which she has no control over shocked the country last week. The Controller told the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) the said Sh53.2 billion was withdrawn from the account and used to pay a loan without her approval. It was also unclear if the balance of Sh73.4 billion was spent or whether it is still in the account. Her report confirmed findings captured in the 2013/14 Auditor General report. The National Treasury Cabinet Secretary also admitted to the PAC committee that low revenues with high demands were leading to the current cash crunch.

This issue brings into sharp focus the role that the National Assembly plays in undertaking its oversight responsibilities. The Assembly through PAC ought to have asked for guarantees from treasury on where the money will be deposited in the first place and the specific projects the bond is meant to be used for.

Pending bills have also soared in government including in counties. The problem with pending bills is that it becomes expenditure in another financial year. Every year Parliament has to approve any expenditure. So when ministries have pending bills the accounting officers are basically making commitments for another year kind of usurping the role of Parliament which is wrong.

But the Euro Bond issue is not isolated. It ties in with the large cash crunch that the government is struggling with. Large infrastructure projects requiring huge capital investments have meant that the government borrows heavily to finance them. This in addition to tax collections not increasing means that the ambitious projects, competing with other core obligations like salary demands leads to a financial quagmire.

In March, the burden of the Eurobond alarmed Parliament following revelations that the country will pay Sh16.4 billion in interest payments on the debt in this financial year. MPs were alarmed because data indicated that interest payments on bond will account for 54 per cent of the total interest payment on foreign debt.

Kenya’s total debt is estimated at about Sh2.8 trillion at the end of June 2015, with foreign debt accounting for nearly half the borrowing. Yet the government still has an appetite to continue borrowing.

Borrowing in itself is not a bad thing. However increasing cases of corruption with less people being brought to book says a lot about wanting to stamp out the vice and promote accountability in the public sector.

While the executive could stall for political reasons to hold state officers to account, the people’s representatives need to show teeth that they stand on the side of accountability. They control the purse strings by determining allocations and also checking the use of the same. If government spending is beyond its means, Parliament has the power to control it and it need to exercise this responsibility.