Currently browsing 'Uncategorized'

Let us rethink our elections preparedness

Posted by on 24th April 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

Elections lie at the core of how governance is established and developed. The Presidential Elections petition presented to the Supreme Court after the 2013 General Elections, warrants interrogation so that any lapses in law and practice can be rectified before the next elections.

It is on this premise that stakeholders converged at the ‘Rethinking Elections Management in Kenya’ forum to audit the elections and the Supreme Court decision, as well as interrogate the case, judgment and consider useful steps to amend its shortcomings.

The forum highlighted five key issues. The first was the procurement and the use of the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) and the Electronic Voter Identification Device (EVID) Kits. It was clear that the investment made was not only inadequate but also the kits were not robustly tested to check possibilities of failure. As it turned out, technology failed to deliver.

Secondly, the need for better election preparedness was spotlighted. Most Kenyans look at the election as an event, yet in reality, election is a process and only polling is an event. This attitude has significant implications on not only candidates in the polls but also voters, political parties, the electoral commission and the judiciary, as major decisions are often made last minute and in a hurry.

Thirdly, the fidelity of the voter register was questioned. During the election queries on what the final voter register comprised of and who had access to it were raised and the Supreme Court did not provide a conclusive response. In future, Kenyans need to own, interrogate and inspect this register because it determines participants in the election, who wins and how the country will be governed.

The fourth issue was the political party nomination and dispute resolution thereafter. Most political parties bungled their nominations and the dispute resolution processes revealed institutional weaknesses and confusion which must be addressed fast. In fact, great candidates were ousted in the shambolic nominations. In Kenya, nominations by a strategic political party are actually like the main election as the winner is often a shoe-in the polls; hence the need for more rigour.

The last issue raised was the composition of the electoral commissioners. Elections management is about perception and there is need to ensure those who lead the process can be held accountable by key players in the election e.g. political parties.

Meanwhile in Parliament, Hon. David Ochieng’ has tabled a bill that seeks to change the election date from Second Tuesday of August as set in the Constitution to the third Monday of December. The reasoning is that August disrupts the current cycle of things including the education calendar but December does not.

It is clear that many issues need to be resolved now and not wait for 2017. Kenyans need to interrogate election related laws and push for their improvement as well as monitor election preparations by the IEBC, Registrar of Political Parties and political parties. Decisions made have to put Kenyans interest’s first, not just politicians!

May Integrity be our shield and defender!

Posted by on 17th April 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

At no time in the history of Kenya have integrity issues been highlighted at a scale like the previous one month. These alleged integrity issues have spotlighted corruption and abuse of abuse by key officers in the public service including Parliamentarians, cabinet secretaries and heads of various public institutions.

In the National Assembly, the focus has been on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), albeit even the Agriculture committee members are alleged to also have been compromised to alter findings of investigations. The Powers and Privileges Committee probed PAC affairs and tabled its findings in the National Assembly.

The Powers and Privileges committee findings were far from robust, which would have helped to stem the vice, and also send a clear message that corruption will not be condoned in the August House. They simply requested four MPs who made unsubstantiated allegations to apologize or miss four sittings, the four members were banned from PAC and a new committee be constituted within 7 days.

The committee would have laid a major milestone, if it had made public its findings on involvement of senior civil servants in corrupt deals and recommended actions should be taken against them and any other person. Maybe the committees work was hindered by the ongoing investigations by the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (EACC).

According to the EACC’s list of shame senior state and public servants stand accused of various corruptions related issues like abuse of office, flaunting procurement procedures, mismanagement and embezzlement of funds.

The President set a 90 day period for them to step aside and pave way for investigations, a process which is currently ongoing. It is unfortunate that a timeline was set to unearth the alleged rot. A timeline restricts the ability to work independently and conclusively, but perhaps EACC will do a good job.

It is critical that the process does not turn out to be a public relations exercise. In the past, all officers who were asked to step aside went back to their positions. It is this skepticism that greets many Kenyans, including how the PAC investigations were handled and determined.

What all these bring out is poor adherence to the rule of law in public service and diligence in executing public duties. It should be noted that Kenyans have been fighting issues of poverty, ignorance and disease since independence. These actions by public servants cast aspersions on ensuring that these three issues are a thing of the past soon.

Leadership comes to mind when talking about integrity and enabling a country move forward. As noted earlier, one does not have to be proved guilty, for them to resign from office, pave way for proper investigations and instill public confidence.

It is this confidence that ensures people provide information to defeat vices in society like insecurity, theft and other unlawful acts. But all must walk the integrity talk for Kenya to be what it can be, a great nation.

Parliament must seize security matters urgently

Posted by on 10th April 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

Innocent Kenyan lives cannot continue to be lost unabated while Parliamentarians as their representatives take a back seat. Government is primarily supposed to provide security to its citizens but President Uhuru’s administration so far seems to have bungled the job. Terrorist attacks have taken away many innocent lives and the recent Garissa Attack adds to the concern.

Parliament in its oversight and representation roles has the mandate and power to bring this to an end. Parliamentarians approve budget allocations to the national security organs but these remain shrouded in secrecy which hinders institutional accountability.

Security is a national government function and current assertions by national government officials including the President and Interior Cabinet Secretary appear to be empty rhetoric.  They keep assuring Kenyans of improved security yet insecurity runs rampant, casting doubt on the government’s competence to address security challenges the country currently faces.

In the recent Garissa attack, some politicians like the Majority Leader Aden Duale have stated on their social media accounts that the attack was locally organized by local politicians. These are very leading comments which need to not only be investigated but also urgently addressed.

Hon. Duale is a core leader in government and needs to avail the information he has to security agencies for their action. In previous attacks, politicians have taken to political rallies to castigate security agencies, they however do little on the floor of the house.

 

 

 

Following the Westgate attack in 2013, Parliament undertook investigations into the circumstances leading to the attack, the responses and put forward recommendations to avoid such incidences in future. Unfortunately, the report  was watered down. For instance, National Security machinery had received warnings regarding the impending attack, and notes the general laxity by the police over terror warnings, but it left out failures in national security bodies.

Inaction on matters security is a great injustice to Kenyans who bestore their trust and responsibility in their elected leaders. They expect and deserve action to protect their lives, property and safeguard Kenya’s sovereignty.

It has been argued and rightly so that radicalization is the main cause of increased terrorism in the country. The argument that unemployment is the reason is fading away guided by the reality that one of the attackers has been identified as a learned person from an okay family.

This begs the question as to what is the role of Parliamentarians in ending the vice! They attend mosques, visit communities and fund projects in these neighborhoods. Their supporters, friends and staff in their offices know these youths being radicalized or those doing the teachings. They need to heed the President’s call that security starts with you by intervening at this early, critical learning stage.

Politicians have a central role in the lives of people as their words and actions are followed in great measure. They should put their position to good use and avail intelligence to security agencies. Parliamentarians should also be vocal against radicalization in the communities they represent. They owe it to Kenyans both individually and collectively.

To Curb Corruption Integrity in Public Office is a Must!

Posted by on 3rd April 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

The List of Shame made public this week has shed light into corruption in government. Commonly used avenues of corruption include: procurement procedures, abuse of office, diverting public funds from intended use and questionable wealth. Various public officers allegedly have cases to answer.

Most of the elected officials have declined to step aside, citing various issues, either law or jurisdiction, as directed by the President. Stepping aside, while only a Kenyan practice, does not amount to being guilty. Every accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty by the courts.

Tabling of the list of shame in Parliament coincided with the Parliamentary Initiatives Network (PIN) release of a report on the implementation of chapter 6 by all arms of government. The report titled; Towards Hazy Horizons; spotlights shortcomings that still exist in making leadership and integrity matters a reality as envisioned in the Constitution.

Guided by jurisprudence from the courts, the report affirms the purpose of Chapter six is to set higher standards of integrity for persons seeking to serve as state officers. The report backed its leadership culpability claims with the case between Trusted Society of Human Rights Alliance v The Attorney General and Others. In that case, the High Court observed that

“…a person is said to lack integrity when there are serious unresolved questions about his honesty, financial probity, scrupulousness, fairness, reputation, soundness of his moral judgment or his commitment to the national values enumerated in the Constitution. In our view, for purposes of the integrity test in our Constitution, there is no requirement that the behaviour, attribute or conduct in question has to rise to the threshold of criminality. It therefore follows that the fact that a person has not been convicted of a criminal offence is not dispositive of the inquiry whether they lack integrity or not…it is enough if there are sufficient serious, plausible allegations which raise substantial unresolved questions about one’s integrity.”

It is therefore evident that a person needs not to be criminally culpable for them to have questionable integrity.

The lack of transparency around procurement, tendering and signed agreements provide avenues for looting in public office. Corruption is not limited to bribery alone. For instance, keeping wealth declaration forms confidential undermines transparency and they must be made public.

In practice, most public officials privatize public resources. Audits of their lives before, during and after office reveal this phenomenon.

Kenya’s problem is not laws but implementation of laws. Kenyan laws are adequately robust in fighting corruption and providing provisions for integrity to inform decisions in public office. People need to resign when implicated as a sense of honor not when told by someone else.

It is time that those convicted of corruption also have their wealth, which was acquired illegally, confiscated and used for public good. It is also time those implicated in corruption to not just step aside, but resign to allow to fair and proper investigations. What say you?

Employment Bill does not discriminate on age

Posted by on 30th March 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

In this second part of the interview with Hon. Johnson Sakaja, he discusses reasons behind setting up a new institution and not amending existing laws within the Ministry of labor. He also discloses the interests both local and international for the Bill, how it will be devolved to all Counties, including areas with less ICT penetration, the public interface of the registry and what will be public or not and reasons behind requesting for this information and in-built checks and balances. In addition, the Bill will be of benefit to all, regardless of the age including the informal sector albeit the use of the word youth is for emphasis purposes. Finally, Hon. Sakaja states that the authority, once set up is what will assist to improve the education system to ensure courses studied are in line with market dynamics.

Find it here

 

You can find the Bill here

Kenya Needs a ‘Deliberate and Focused’ approach on Unemployment, says Hon. Sakaja

Posted by on 24th March 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

Hon. Johnson Sakaja is sponsoring the National Youth Employment Authority (NYEA) Bill (2015) which is meant to be a one-stop-shop for anyone looking for employment. The Bill is premised on the lack of accurate data on unemployment in Kenya and knowledge among youth, especially graduates on how to go about seeking for a job. It is an added effort by Government to help people find jobs, both locally and internationally. In doing this, the Bill proposes to provide incentives to both public and private institutions who use the Authority’s database to recruit staff. In this first part of a two part series interview, Hon. Sakaja shares his thoughts that informed the Bill.

Find it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmgrwUUpS2s

You can also find the Bill here

Corruption allegations against Parliamentary Committees a Disgrace

Posted by on 14th March 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

Over the past one month, news on parliamentary committees and budgetary allocations have painted the institution charged with legislation, representation and oversight as corrupt and self-centered.

Serious corruption allegations have been leveled against the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) members including its chairman. These allegations have been about its members soliciting and taking bribes from senior public servants to influence the outcome of a report under investigations.

PAC audits all public accounts to ensure that public money was used prudently. The 11th Parliament PAC has been auditing some serious issues including the IEBC’s conduct of the 2013 General Elections, Auditor General’s Accounts, the Hustler’s jet leasing and investigations into the questionable transfer of Sh2.3 billion from the Office of the President between 2012 and 2013 among others. These are core institutions of public interest hence vested interests abound.

A recorded conversation between MPs Samuel Arama, Ababu Namwamba, Junet Mohammed and CORD coalition leader Raila Odinga has brought out the corrupt dealings associated with MPs and other senior government officers. The recording implicates MPs from both the Jubilee and CORD Coalitions in the practice which goes to show corruption is condoned and abetted so long as it caters to their interests. Hear the recording

On Thursday, the Budget committee bowed to pressure from MPs and dropped an allocation of Sh3 billion intended to public hearings and professional input. The bulk of Sh3 billion that was dropped from the proposed allocations was shared between the Parliamentary Service Commission (Sh1 billion) and the Constituency Development Fund (Sh1.38 billion).

That parliamentarians can be very selfish to the point of competing amongst each other to take bribes and implicate each other in order to influence reports is not only unfortunate but also shameful.

This behavior is contrary to the Constitution and Parliament standing orders. Article 75 of the Constitution is clear that state officers’ public and private behavior must avoid conflict of interest between their personal interest and public or official duties.  Compromising any public or official interest in favor of a personal interest demeans the office the officer holds. The standing orders further elaborate and give guidelines on this issue.

It is clear that corruption festers prominently at the committee level, which is pivotal in determining and shaping debate in the plenary. These strong allegations imply that whatever happens at the plenary is normally already decided upon and it is just a stamping exercise.

It is also clear that MPs who have been adversely mentioned are in breach of the Constitution and standing orders. A breach of law is a serious crime which should not be condoned. The Parliamentarians adversely mentioned have shown no remorse whatsoever. A parliamentary committees audit is recommended. The audit ideally should be carried out by representatives of the Independent Commissions with a view of prosecuting them in a court of law in order to set precedence, nip the vice and protect the dignity of the House.

What do you think?

 

Public Appointments should be about Meritocracy

Posted by on 9th March 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

It cannot be that a person from a certain village, when they exit public office, is replaced by another person from the same village, went a paraphrased comment from Senate Minority Leader Moses Wetangula, during the debate in the Senate that approved Joseph Boinett as the Inspector General of Police.

That comment reverberates with how many senior public appointments are being treated. It seems it comes down to ethnic arithmetic. The Boinett appointment is the most recent example. Many others including that of Interior and Coordination of National Government Cabinet Secretary come to mind.

The public is about the whole of a country, not a specific, probably politically correct ethnic community. It is about how national interests are safeguarded by all these communities. Balancing of public appointments is crucial to recognition of diversity.

Above the need to recognize and appreciate diversity is the need to ensure that meritocracy informs public appointments. Merit is about providing opportunities to people based on their qualifications; both academic and experience in that field.

Addressing this issue starts with having a process that is above board. When the individual shows interest in an office, due diligence must be done to check their stated qualifications vis-à-vis fidelity to compliance. For instance, questions were raised about the academic qualifications from the institutions that Boinett is said to have graduated from. Apparently, MPs did not probe the issue much during the vetting process.

So far, the need for interested persons in public offices to have clearance from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) are useful considerations to guide the suitability of a candidate. These requirements help to weed out candidates who have questionable pasts from holding public office.

However, public office goes beyond these requirements because of three main issues.

First is the need for openness. This is the expectation that anyone who is capable of holding a position is given a fair consideration. The kind of patronage being practiced makes it an exercise in futility since some qualified individuals will opt out knowing their ethnicity will disfavor them.

Secondly is the need for public interest. Public interest is best served when qualified individuals are appointed. They have the blessings of everyone and this support ensures they can better deliver. When the process is compromised, the interest is not necessarily that of the public but the political elite.

Thirdly is accountability. Accountability of public officers is to the Constitution and the people not certain individuals. An accountable public officer is shielded from political machinations and protected by the rule of law. Such an individual works well knowing that their actions of commission and omission have to be for public good.

At a time when the country is still healing from ethnic and political divisions, spewing bigoted hate on social media and feeling disenfranchised from the national cake, public appointments go a long way of showing them how inclusive a government is. Short of this is condoning patriarchy and clientelism, bad governance practices that have ruined independence Kenya in it’s over five decades of existence.

All Interests on CDF must see Wanjiku First

Posted by on 2nd March 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

Resources meant for development at the grassroots always excite various interests, something the Judgment that found the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) as unconstitutional has proven. Interests are always good and welcome but worthy interests are those which are about developing the social fabric of society; schools, healthcare and infrastructure.

In the Petition filed by the Institute of Social Accountability (TISA), the petitioners wanted the Judges to find the CDF (Amendment) Act 2013 as unconstitutional as it was in contravention with the spirit of the devolution in the Constitution, something the judges agreed with. The Judges were however reasonable to rule that Parliament has 12 months to amend the law to align it with the Constitution.

Fundamentally, this alignment is to entrench CDF in Counties. Parliamentarians reactions have sent mixed signals. Some are saying they will work on ensuring they amend the law as the judges advised while others stating that they will challenge it at the Court of Appeal.

That CDF has made a great difference to Kenyans lives is not in doubt. The fund awards bursaries to children from poor families and supports communities to construct and equip clinics which significantly reduce their healthcare burden. In some areas, roads have been constructed to ease access to markets. However, the question is at which level of government should CDF sit at to ensure it is better managed?  This is a very healthy debate that all need to embrace with sober minds and action.

TISA’s case was born of the need to ensure that there is no overlap or contradiction in law. What CDF is in constituencies, is a mini-devolved fund, which to a degree usurps County functions. At the very least, having a unitary structure of disbursing the funds helps to better structure and attend to citizens. In its current form, it is very easy for projects to overlap, a perfect avenue to fleece the public.

Recently, MPs passed the law to strip Governors of the Excellency title and flag among others. As a result, some governors now perceive the recent ruling on CDF management as a great boost to further their agenda and actually want the fund scrapped and the monies allocated to them, a perfect opportunity to get back at the MPs.

Yet, all interests in matters CDF should be about the good work that it has done and seeking ways to seal loopholes for corruption. The proposed amendment should also see to it that more funds are allocated to projects than administration of the funds. All these interests have a place in ensuring that devolution works and citizens get value from their elected leaders.

Will MPs and Governors put their best foot forward and prioritize Wanjiku’s interest over their personal agendas? What kind of changes should be introduced to CDF management to cater to all the parties ‘visibility’ interests at the grassroots?

Time Ripe for Public Audit Law

Posted by on 24th February 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

Parliament is scheduled to debate the Public Audit Bill, 2014, setting stage for a new and critical framework to ensure accountability and transparency of public funds. Public Audit Bill is crucial in entrenching a system that will better ensure that public servants are better held to account through proactive measures that also ensure efficiency at the Auditor General’s office.

A quick glance of media reports including social media indicates questionable financial malpractices covering the entire spectrum in the public sector. This raises public interest concerns in the management of the public sector, specifically the approach to public finances oversight.

The Constitution, informed by past plunders including mega scandals like Anglo-Leasing and Goldenberg, enshrines various institutions to check the management of public funds. However, this seems not to be the case, over four years since the promulgation of the Constitution. Perhaps this calls for the strengthening of institutions and mechanisms of ensuring that early detection is made. A deterrent approach would help in checking the vice in good time.

The Public Audit Law should strengthen the Auditor General’s office to ensure there is continuous auditing and not seasonal. The Constitution in Article 229 (4 and 6) requires the Auditor General to report and confirm whether or not public money has been applied lawfully and in an effective way.

Ensuring managerial accountability is critical in offering leadership at the highest level. Chapter six of the Constitution expects high officer bearers to uphold certain principles and values and ensure integrity at all times.

Already, there are concerns about the Bill in its current form. The Auditor General has raised some issues in the Bill that seek to limit his ability to deliver. Dr. Edward Ouko wants MPs to make changes to clause 40 of the Bill on auditing national security organs, which he said is too prescriptive to the extent that it gags the auditor from discharging his mandate. He also wants changes to clause 20 of the Bill which proposes that he submits his budget to the Treasury for review and subsequent transmission to Parliament for approval. Dr. Ouko is of the view that reviews should be submitted to Parliament and not treasury.

However, two provisions stand out. One, civil servants will be cited personally in audit reports for loss of State funds. This is a good departure from the current where the Auditor-General only highlights misuse of State funds.  Secondly, the Bill grants the Auditor-General powers to recommend withholding of funds to a public entity for violation of the law. This is crucial in nipping the bud before more plunder is done and current questions can be answered sooner.

There could be many other areas that need amendments. It therefore calls upon all interested parties to read the Bill and propose measures that will ensure the law is beyond reproach. Kenyans need to seize this moment and actualize prudent public audits.