Forget EACC what we need is a serious debate on Chapter Six of the Constitution

Posted by on 17th December 2018

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If an anti-corruption commission has a problem interviewing or vetting their next CEO in public, there’s cause to worry. Late last month, journalists were shocked to learn they were barred from witnessing the vetting of individuals interested in the post of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), CEO following the end of Halakhe Waqo’s six years non-renewable term.

But this shouldn’t come as a surprise considering a lot of the institution’s activities are not open to the public including their investigations. The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) – since the new boss came in office – hasn’t shied one bit from letting the public know who they’re investigating. In fact, only recently, a court order stopped them from putting up on social media, mug shots of suspects they were investigating.

Indeed, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) has promised to go after the big fish and proceeded to name them even when it looked politically incorrect to do so. It’s only the EACC that feels obliged to protect the people they’re investigating.

When the civil society under the National Integrity Alliance (NIA) banner were pushing for the red card campaign to block leaders lacking integrity from being elected last year (2017), the EACC was pussyfooting; telling the members of the alliance they could not reveal names of those being investigated on grounds that one is innocent until proven guilty. This was a great opportunity for the EACC to ride on the good will offered by the civil society under the red card campaign to reveal these individuals and bolster the move to strengthen Chapter Six of the Constitution but they took a pass.

Never mind, the people they protect from public scrutiny are likely to use their offices to frustrate the investigations against them. No wonder, they have had some success in asset recovery but zero success in successful prosecution of high profile individuals.

That Halakhe Waqo’s deputy, Michael Mubea, who should have been the obvious favorite was passed by the EACC board, and an outsider recommended is proof all is not well at the Integrity house. Worse still, the ongoing vetting by the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee is not likely to get the country much, whether vetting is kept from the public or not.

Firstly, Parliament, just like the EACC has lost public confidence when it comes to investigation of corruption scandals. They bungled nearly all the inquiries over bribery allegations this year. Where MPs were expected to be honorable, they either chose to protect the accused on grounds of “their community being targeted” or completely absconded house business to create a quorum hitch. Those with little disregard for Wanjiku allegedly took bribes to vote against key reports in the House.

If members in the 12th Parliament have shown such a high affinity for bribery and the fine things in life, going by that infamous PSC Bill sponsored by the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee; why should we expect the vetting of the anti-corruption watchdog to yield anything?

Besides, all those who’ve led this institution have performed dismally from Aaron Ringera’s Kenya Anti- Corruption Commission (KACC) to the re-branding to EACC; nothing has changed and if the allegations against the outgoing officers are anything to go by, it’s only getting worse.

The question we ought to deal with is: do we really need the EACC? If yes, is there a need to restructure it? Perhaps, give it a special mandate as one of the nominees suggested during the vetting. Give it only high profile cases involving very senior government officers thereby freeing the institution from dealing with every criminal case that the Police and DCI can competently handle. This way, we can stop unfairly criticizing the understaffed investigators and hopefully give the institution a clear target.

In the meantime, if any vetting was to be done at the EACC it should be on the staff. One individual being grilled in Parliament can’t affect an institutionalized culture where more than half of the staff are allegedly gatekeepers.

Perhaps the ongoing vetting of individuals running for the EACC CEO position should rekindle the much needed discussion on Chapter Six of the Constitution. To that end, it’s about time we revisited the Leadership and Integrity Act that gives life to Chapter Six. And once and for all streamline all the loopholes making it easy for corrupt individuals to find their way into senior public office.

If we get it right on Chapter Six, agencies like the DCI, DPP, EACC and the Judiciary are likely to have a more productive time and with it proper use of tax payer’s money.

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