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2016 May Shape or break 11th Parliament’s Legacy

Posted by on 5th February 2016

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The 11th Parliament may not be Kenya’s favorite House despite its inclusivity. Since its inception in 2013, the National Assembly has been defined by gaffes that range from physical fights to passing pathetic laws. The Senate on the other hand has spent most its time crying wolf and does not have much output to show.

As Parliament resumes business, the National Assembly has on its plate Constitutional laws that must be passed before the August deadline. Some of the pending bills are so monumental that the final legislation may change how Kenyans will perceive the 11th Parliament in the long term. The significant laws include those on Land and the implementation of the “gender rule”.

There are quite a number of laws on land, a subject that divides Kenyans more than any other. Parliament as a house of national dialogue is expected to constitute a legal structure that will answer Kenya’s land question that has persisted since independence, once and for all.

The other window of opportunity for the 11th to restore their honor, is in legislating a law on the implementation of “two thirds gender rule”. Beyond the various preferences by competing groups, the Constitution gave Kenyan women a promissory note of inclusivity. The spirit of Kenya’s Constitution is so uncompromising on matters of equity and equality such that the laws made to implement it must include women sufficiently. In light of this, Parliament has a choice to bury their head in the sand or face the issues head on.

Other bills of interest address the following matters; forests, energy management, petroleum exploration and production, seeds and plants varieties, protection of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expression among others. Will Parliament continue enacting weak legislation or finally rise up to the task and publish rich laws?

In 2016, the notoriety of giving very short notices on public participation ought to end. If Parliament is really willing to include people in governance they must give sufficient time to Kenyans in order to participate in legislation. You will note that some of the legislations which invoke high public interest, Kenyans are given an abrupt notice to submit memoranda. How about Parliament making 2016 an year of adventure, and set up a multi-media approach in dispersing Parliamentary information. If Parliament was effective in communication then the public would flock there whenever there is a sitting on public participation.

In 2015, we heard enough of corruption and mischief stories on Parliament. MPs have the burden of re-earning Kenyans trust. In 2016, they have deadlines to meet and for those who want to be re- elected they have a constituency to gratify.

Finally, in the words of the Bible, Luke 12:48b, Parliamentarians better put at the back of their minds, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”

Parties: Broken Engine of Progressive Politics

Posted by on 1st February 2016

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The centrality of political parties in the growth of progressive politics cannot be gainsaid. In democracies political parties are expected to set the standards of good leadership and progressive politics. In a nutshell, they are the drivers of politics and the quality of political parties determines the overall politics in a state. Articles 91 and 92 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, set the threshold for political parties so high in order to prepare them for the respectable job of governing a country, in case they win a General election.

Regrettably, the political class have defied the letter and the spirit of the Constitution, and their wish is to maintain political parties in a ramshackle state. Currently, political parties are not used as institutions of merchandizing sound and concrete ideologies. Instead, they have been hijacked by self-interested individuals to massage the differences of a people as the shortest route to gain popularity and eventually power.

In the recent past, Kenya has witnessed political parties’ indiscipline at its peak.  Members of political parties have been forming political parties while still maintaining the membership of the party that sponsored them in various positions of leadership. This is unheard off and therefore a blatant violation of the law.

The political parties’ honchos and the Registrar of Political Parties (RPP), who are supposed to be prefects of the parties may be accused of tolerating and brooding runaway indiscipline. Errant political party members are hardly disciplined.

Party hopping was legitimized by the 10th Parliament when they amended the Elections Act in 2012. Their main line of argument was that, there is lack of internal democracy and members of political parties should be free to switch their allegiance at will. In hindsight, this claim is true.  For the longest time, most political parties in Kenya have been acting as a sole proprietorship where one person together with their cronies call the shots. In such an environment, fears that, when they don’t like you, they may lock you out are valid.

Fundamentally, political parties’ discipline lies with its members and leadership. It is ironical that most Kenyans over 18 years of age don’t participate in political parties and yet they are primarily meant for them. Enrolment in a political party puts one in a position to dictate what happens therein, and with it the power to shift our politics from personality-driven to ideology-centred politics. Party discipline is difficult to attain if the outfits are not institutionalized based on a specific philosophy.

The National Assembly’s legal affairs committee has expressed its intention to exonerate the rebels who have hopped from the parties that sponsored them to various elective positions by amending the Political Parties Act. If the proposed amendment goes through, it will be a big blow to “principled democracy” and an endorsement to self-interest politics. In the wake of “brown envelope” politics the amendment will only introduce more dishonesty.

In the end, real change depends on individual Kenyans. Political parties have been the most underutilized institutions of governance, why don’t we register as members and start influencing them?

Unresolved Integrity Questions Will Haunt IEBC

Posted by on 19th January 2016

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Last week IEBC launched the “2017 elections operational timelines”. But what is more worrying is that the Electoral commission is preparing us for another seemingly competitive election with a limping integrity. Although, the “Chicken gate scandal”  has already secured convictions in the UK, in Kenya, cases linked to the scandal appear to have been swept under the carpet.

Meanwhile, the IEBC lays plans for the next election as if nothing happened.

The Chicken gate scandal involved Smith & Ouzman, a British firm that specializes in printing of security documents like ballot papers and exam certificates. The company allegedly paid bribes to Kenya’s Interim Independent Electoral Commission of Kenya (IIEC) and the Kenyan National Examination Council (KNEC) officials between 2006 and 2013.

Whereas some commissioners and the former CEO who were alleged partakers of the scandal have long gone, the same Chairperson who oversaw the 2010 referendum and 2013 elections is expected to steer 2017 election process. The IEBC Chair is also alleged to have been involved in Chicken gate. As Parliament resumes sittings in February 2016 the IEBC baggage has to be confronted.

Firstly, the IEBC Chair’s continued presence in the Commission with such integrity baggage is not good for a commission that oversees a hallowed democratic ritual like an election. In recent times, electoral disputes have caused some of the worst conflicts, and Kenya is not an exception. This therefore, calls for caution and great care in constituting electoral bodies. The persons running these bodies must be seen as people of high integrity.

Secondly, public perception makes or breaks their belief in democracy. Key to this, institutional integrity of the electoral commission. If this democratic process, which is usually epitomized by an election is bungled, it shutters the dreams of a people as captured in the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and makes a bloody revolution inevitable.

Thirdly, if Kenyans want people of integrity to take over Kenya in 2017 general election then the election must be overseen by people of Integrity. In democracies, elections are opportune time for the people to conduct a national leadership stock taking and replace some leaders while retaining some. It is not lost to us that IEBC shall be among the institutions that shall check the integrity of all candidates who shall present their candidature in the next election. Then are we ready to have a prefect with spots of corruption?

Fourthly, Kenyans have their doubts about the financial accountability of the IEBC and rightly so. At Ksh. 45 billion, IEBC seeks to make Kenya’s election the most expensive in the continent. Kenyans doubt the budget and the intentions of its formulators. The underlying question is, will it be used to buy some chickens for a few? IEBC may be genuine in asking for such a budget but they have already abused the trust.

What will it take for the IEBC to gain back Kenyan’s confidence and trust before the 2017 general election? Will Parliament ask the pertinent questions and seal loop-holes?

Early Campaigns, Not Good For The Country.

Posted by on 11th January 2016

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Twenty months away from the 2017 General elections, politicians have started evoking political temperatures and subjecting the country to unnecessary tension. Just last week a foreign journalist expressed her dislike of the current early campaigns by a tweet that read, “It’s literally full election mode here in Kenya and we have another year to go. Not sure I can take this”.

The frustrations by the journalist indicates the dangers that politicians are exposing our country to. One, early campaigns are putting Kenya in bad light, internationally, bearing in mind that our politics are “nasty and brutish”. Secondly, early campaigns may have consequences on our economy. Thirdly, they may also affect the already wanting quality of MPs’ work and other elected office holders. Fourthly and finally, early campaigns will only widen ethnic divisions among Kenyans.

Internationally, the increased political currents may scare away visitors and therefore harm the now recovering tourism sector. It is estimated that whenever there are political campaigns in Kenya the tourism sector suffers the biggest blow. Tourism is one of the major pillars of our economy and when business isn’t good our economy suffers. It shouldn’t be that whenever we have an election our economy should go down. Politicians should learn to conduct their business at the right time and in the right way without interfering with the normalcy of the country.

There is already an outcry that most MPs are underperforming apart from a few. Currently, the nation is protesting over laws that the Parliament passed without consulting the people. The Miscellaneous Amendment Act that altered the Judicial Service Commission Act were passed in Parliament without opposition from any member. This amendment is crucial and touches an institution that holds the key to peace in Kenya’s elections. Judiciary is the arbiter of last resort in a presidential election and therefore an institution that should be protected jealously.

Now this begs the question, how could this amendment have been passed by  349 MPs without them discussing the possible consequences of the amendment? We either have lazy MPs or they are already caught up in next elections campaigns. Claims that some of them are already being bought up worsens the situation. This a serious breach of service and a blatant betrayal to Wanjiku.

Apart from MPs, we have also seen Governors busy forming new parties ahead of 2017 elections. Kenyan politicians are power hungry and the only thing that they are innovatively thinking of is how they can retain it. Sadly, Wanjiku has only been left to be a hopeless spectator.

Sporadic ethnic conflicts are already being reported. As we speak people are fighting between the border of Kisumu and Nandi County. A few weeks ago it was between Nakuru and Narok County. This is not new in Kenya. Whenever the election mood has been set, there are politicians who are always ready to reap from conflicts.

The current political bickering and premature campaigns are of no importance to Kenyans. Politicians should tone down and commit to the task at hand. For Parliamentarians, there are still pieces of legislation that are pending. On the other hand, Governors performance isn’t convincing yet and the Presidency, must slay the dragon of corruption and deliver on a myriad of promises still pending.

 

Loopholes in the New National Government Constituencies Development Fund

Posted by on 28th December 2015

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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)