Senators need to check corruption in Counties

Posted by on 27th July 2015

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Auditor General’s most recent report reveals some glaring inconsistencies in counties’ financial probity that call for the Senate to check their lack of prudent expenditure of public money. Twenty-nine Counties cannot account for their budget allocations and reported revenues remain low despite increased levies.

The report sheds light into a web of mechanisms employed by county government officials to avoid accounting for public funds. Local revenue remains low in counties and waste, over-expenditure, shifting of funds to unbudgeted items, plus outright theft is endemic.

Reduced and unaccounted for revenues is one of the issues raised in the audit queries. For instance in Nairobi County, the report reveals that though the county generated Sh5.5 billion as revenue, only Sh5.2 billion was banked. This raises questions on the whereabouts of Sh252 million. This amount was not banked, neither was its expenditure approved by the Controller of Budget (CoB).

Counties also failed to provide proper documentation on expenditure. For instance, In Kisii County, the assembly paid the MCAs Sh20 million for foreign trips yet they did not provide supporting documents. This includes claims made on the trips to China, Germany, Israel, United States and Uganda which had no backing in the form of invitation letters or passports to prove that the members travelled.

Unregulated expenditures were also raised. In Nyamira, the office of the governor at one point paid 33 MCAs and the speaker Sh10000 each for lunch as they discussed the Finance Bill. This is against the law as they did not even move out of their work stations or location.

Reports in the media indicated that the Senate’s Public Accounts Committee intends on summoning Governors and County Assembly clerks to explain the reported plunder of the public funds allocated to their counties. That meeting needs to happen soonest to keep counties in check as they start implementing the current budget.

The Senate was specifically created to advance devolution and protect it. Recently, it won a court case in which Governors did not want to be summoned by them but the court ruled that it has the powers to do so. This teeth needs to bite.

Protecting devolution which Kenyans fought for and want to see make their lives better will not be realized if office bearers in counties are allowed to plunder public money. The Auditor’s report made some recommendations on the specific cases including surcharging members, calling for further investigations and adhering to procurement regulations.

It is hoped that Senators will call the individuals concerned to explain the inaccuracies and take further actions against those who fail to give credible reasons for the failure to exercise financial oversight in the counties. Senate has powers to bring this plunder to a stop and needs to do it, Pronto!


Rule of law must be upheld by all to fight corruption

Posted by on 20th July 2015

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Rule of law means that citizens and those who govern them should obey the law. On the 9th of July, the National Assembly proposed two controversial amendments to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (Amendment) bill 2015.

One proposal is to have the Public Service Commission (PSC) recruit EACC Commissioners where a vacancy arises. This is utter disregard of Article 249(2) of the Constitution which secures the independence of Constitutional Commissions and Independent Offices.

The second proposed change is to have the Offices of the Secretary and Deputy Secretary to the Commission become vacant upon the commencement of the Act which effectively and un-procedurally terminates the terms of service of the incumbent. This is in breach of the EACC 2011 act which clearly stipulates the grounds on which the Secretary may be removed from office.

The EACC (Amendment) Bill, 2015 was passed in the National Assembly with these provisions and now awaits presidential assent.

The only positive proposal put forward was the need to increase the number of Commissioners from three to five as well as provide for the Chairperson and the, members of the Commission to serve on a part-time basis. Otherwise, the other two controversial clauses water down the EACC’s management.

In fighting corruption in Kenya, Parliamentarians must exercise sober judgement and demonstrate leadership. Parliamentarians, should never allow other public officials, let alone themselves, to operate outside the law, either by exercising a power they are not entitled to employ, or by using it in a way that violates the law. They need to exercise power only where they have legal authority to do so.

Parliamentarians seem to be aggrieved by the List of Shame which included some of them yet they want the commission to work and end corruption in Kenya. It is double speak that has no place in a progressive country.

MPs need to recognize that the EACC is an independent commission and as such, proposing changes to it frequently will affects its service delivery and derail the war against corruption. They need to appreciate that as a core institution of governance, it should only be supported to realize a better, integrity filled country.

Parliamentary committee sittings should be conducted honorably

Posted by on 11th July 2015

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The most important conversations in Parliament happen in committees hence when such a meeting becomes chaotic, the prudence of continuing to hold it is washed away as substantive debate cannot take place. In committees, legislators look through ideas, vet individuals, consider motions, debate proposals and interrogate key office bearers to understand issues. Eventually, committees present their findings and proposals to the house plenary sittings.

Unfortunately this week, the joint Finance, Planning and Trade and Labor and Social Welfare committee sitting in the National Assembly was chaotic. The sitting was convened to interrogate the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Planning on the National Youth Service (NYS) alleged corruption, steps taken to stop it and other NYS related concerns.

The debate deteriorated on a number of occasions due to things that could have been avoided.

One; members took partisan positions. It became a Jubilee and Cord shouting match. Some members said the government was using the NYS to make political advances.

Two; there was repetitive questioning of the same issue by different legislators even when it had been previously addressed irking other members including the chair.

Three; members found it difficult to allow for full questioning and kept interrupting debate from time to time without raising substantive issues.

Parliament is supposed to be a house of honor. Its deliberations affect the country at large. The NYS issue affects majority of youthful Kenyans, as they would want to learn from it and benefit as some are in Kibera and Mathare slums.

MPs need to understand that when they are in the house including committee sittings, they speak for their people and not selfish interests. In any case, government work is financed by taxpayers and all concerned must be accountable. Parliamentarians should advocate for public interest and this does not include shouting and blocking divergent, critical views.

In this instance, MPs were undertaking their oversight role. Oversight means checking compliance to the law, ensuring that the respective institution and individual abides by the dictates of law and where this is not done, calling them to order including recommending the full house redress mechanisms.

The joint committee sitting unearthed nothing substantive. Parliamentarians failed to use the opportunity the Constitution gives them to raise pertinent issues that would enlighten Kenyans on the NYS.

Although, the Cabinet Secretary was well prepared for the sitting although she was not interrogated. NYS graduates are leading community youth in development projects, including slum-cleaning initiatives aimed at uplifting the livelihoods of the informal settlements. They earn an average of Sh500 per day and save in Saccos, where they can access financial loans.

This is something MPs need to recognize as empowering to Kenyans and support it. Parliamentarians also need to objectively raise any concerns they have to ensure it is above board. Using a critical platform for partisan interests should be shunned. It is hoped that the Speaker will rule on the matter since it was raised in the House and provide useful guide to future committee sittings that can deteriorate.



Political Parties must invest in internal strengthening

Posted by on 3rd July 2015

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Political parties are foundational to politics and democracy. Under constitutionalism, political parties are the essential vehicle for establishing governments as without them hardly any meaningful public participation can take place. They invite people to register as members who legitimize aspiring candidates to vie for office and if successful form government.

At a recent launch on political parties’ adherence to the law in line with the Constitution in Article 91 and 92 and the Political Parties Act (2011), it was evident that they are not adhering to the law. The study undertaken by the Institute of Education in Democracy (IED) was based on 21 political parties that have representation in Parliament.

According to Article 91(1) of the Constitution all political parties must:

  • Have a national character,
  • Promote and uphold national unity,
  • Have a democratically elected governing body,
  • Abide by democratic principles,
  • Respect the right of all persons to participate in the political process,
  • Respect and promote human rights including gender equality and equity;
  • Promote rule of law and;
  • Observe the political parties code of conduct.

On the other hand, Article 92 elaborates on the legislations required on political parties.


Kenya has 60 registered political parties. IED looked at how some of these political parties undertake their business, identified the existing gaps and made recommendations on measures that should be taken.

The IED report revealed:

  1. Political parties and the Registrar of Political Parties are averse to sharing party membership lists. Only three parties shared it. Party membership lists is useful to check to compliance to requirements like gender and regional balance et al.
  2. The lack of a substantive Registrar of Political Parties is impeding the office from giving better service delivery.
  3. All parties do not have offices in 24 of the 47 Counties as required by law.
  4. Disbursement of political parties funds need to be rethought through in order to fund more parties, promote accountability and better service delivery

The gaps identified are not solely about political parties but also the broader electoral system.

Parties birth representatives to Parliament who then determine the bread and butter issues for every Kenyan. Disorder in political parties is inversely connected to poor representation be it in Parliament or County Assemblies.

In addition, political parties are supposed to create forums for interaction of its members with the elected leaders to inform law and policy. With such internal structures in place, party members can take positions on various issues and whip their leaders to move them through Parliament.

Weak party structures deny the public opportunity to pro-actively engage and inform debate in Parliament and County Assemblies. The deeply entrenched culture of Political parties recruiting members in the lead up to elections perpetuates the continued perception that they are vehicles for elections only and renders them still born.

On the other hand, poor civic awareness has caused most Kenyans to ignore registration as Political party members, yet this is the only way to grow our democracy. By joining political parties, the public can push for congregating structures to be established including think tanks, get their preferred candidates nominated and ensure the elected officials deliver on their mandates. For our democracy, to grow Kenyans need to take power back and push for strong parties. Will you rise up?

Here is the comprehensive report From Law to Practice

Parliament must investigate NYS alleged graft

Posted by on 26th June 2015

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The National Youth Service (NYS), a very promising institution is currently embroiled in accountability issues that need concerted efforts to resolve them. The work that the NYS has undertaken especially in building roads, opening up drainages and providing some socio-economic facilities for people especially in slum areas has been evident.

In the recent one week, there have been strong allegations of impropriety. Later, Devolution and Planning Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru came out to state that she had stopped some fictitious payments of sh826 million and provided details to the Criminal Investigations Departments (CID) to investigate and prosecute those found culpable.

With regard to this matter, two grave concerns have been highlighted. The first is the personnel who are alleged to have committed the fraud. It is alleged that a password belonging to Senior Deputy Director General Adan Harakhe was stolen and used to sanction some illegal payments.

The second key concern is how secure is the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) that is used by government to make payments. The system, which is operated by human beings, has been previously stated to be foolproof. In fact, transactions done from one department can be seen by another hence able to see any anomalies. It is this feature that enabled Treasury to raise the red flag in the institution leading to the current situation.

In light of the emerging concerns, strong leadership needs to steer the debate in the right direction.

First, for too long, a few Kenyans have led to the misery of so many yet they go unpunished. Fraud at NYS will affect not only its members and the communities that they work in but also many dependent on them for the casual jobs and others grateful for the sanity they have created in their communities.

Secondly, all investigation institutions need to rise to the occasion and make a clean break from the past. They need to prioritize and see to it that no stone will be left unturned.

Thirdly, Parliament, which consists of peoples’ representatives need to be decisive. Already, the Labour and Social Welfare Committee of the National Assembly will next week meet Waiguru to shed light on the anomalies and what she has so far done about it.

This NYS situation should bring out the best in the separation of powers principle. Parliament which is constitutionally independent from the executive must be seen to live by this dictate and unearth whatever rot is in the institution to safeguard its integrity and ensure Kenyans do not suffer.

Under the separation of powers principle, Parliament is expected to check the executive to ensure there are no excesses. Summoning Waiguru is the first step. It needs to move, after collecting and collating information from her, including summoning anyone else, tell Kenyans where the problem is.

So far under the jubilee administration, this principle has not come out strongly. Parliament has been seen to be an extension of the executive, not doing much to properly vet its nominees, check its powers and investigate issues to the best of public’s demand and expectations. Let this not be the case as before.

Parliamentarians’ supremacy differences over budget are not in public interest

Posted by on 21st June 2015

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The raging supremacy war between the Senate and the National Assembly over budgetary allocations are unfortunate and against public interest. The two houses have severally fought over their mandates and from time to time, taken parallel positions over Bills, decisions or some assertions. This current public spat over the budget should never happen.

The creation of the two houses was informed by history and the need to protect devolution. Senate has the mandate to ensure devolution works and services it is supposed to render through county government take place efficiently. The National Assembly on the other hand has its mandate in national functions. From time to time, the two houses need to consult on various bills before a decision is made and the Bill taken to the President for assent.

The National Assembly slashed Senate’s Sh1 billion allocation to senators for monitoring and evaluation, Sh800 million from the Judiciary’s budget and Sh200 million from the SRC in the budget for the financial year 2015/16. Senators wanted the money to monitor various projects undertaken by their counties. MPs argued that the figure is wasteful and should actually not have been allocated in the first instance.

Senators saw the budgetary cut as a punishment and anti-devolution. On the other hand, the Judiciary took the flak because of the 2013 advisory opinion that the Supreme Court made making it mandatory for the two Houses to be involved in legislating on the revenue bill. The Judiciary has since further ruled that the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) should be restructured as it is unconstitutional.

Angry senators criticized the MPs for being “vengeful and vindictive” in slashing budgets for constitutional organs and institutions that they considered unfriendly to them. Discussing a motion to establish a select committee to inquire into what they see as the excesses of the MPs, senators described the National Assembly a “a rogue House lacking in wisdom and experience” that must be tamed.

Budget making is a shared function in which Parliamentarians should demonstrate great soberness in making decisions affecting the Counties and the National functions respectively.

Budget making determines how the national cake will be distributed for a certain financial year. It also lays the foundation for the collection of taxes and other measures meant to ensure the public are better off than the previous year. As such, it is the most crucial document and process for the growth of a country. It is also one that can make or break a people.

Though wrangles are not always a bad thing, as they help bring out differences to be settled. In this case, leaders need to put public interest issues first before their personal differences to ensure the public gets value for their representation.

To reduce tension going forward, parliamentarians need to put in place an inclusive system with representation from both chambers to discuss the issues they want to prioritize during the budget process. What do you think?

Time ripe to legislate on Vetting

Posted by on 12th June 2015

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The manner in which MPs handled the nomination of Amb. Dr. Monica Juma as the Secretary to the Cabinet calls for a vetting law. This is not the only case in point but since the Uhuru government was sworn in, the vetting exercises have been wanting. It would be okay if her rejection was based on substantive reasoning, but nothing is further from the truth.

During the vetting, the committee clearly established the following:

  1. Dr. Juma has the requisite qualifications and vast experience in public service to make her suitable for the position;
  2. She has meticulously risen through the ranks in academia and professionally;
  3. She has never been implicated in any corruption scandal in her official capacity;
  4. She exhibited impressive knowledge of topical issues including public policy and security.

These remarks make one wonder why they rejected her. In fact, considering those remarks, she ably met and surpassed the set standards in the Public Officers Ethics Act 2003, the Public Service (Values and Principles) Act 2014, Leadership and Integrity Act 2012 and Chapter six of the Constitution.

Part 9 (1) of the Public Officers Ethics Act expects a public officer to carry out their duties in a way that maintains public confidence in the integrity of his office; treat the public and his fellow public officers with courtesy and respect; seek to improve the standards of performance and level of professionalism in his organization; and discharge any professional responsibilities in a professional manner among other requirements.

To discredit her, MPs cited a letter she had written to the Clerk and Speaker of Parliament requesting MPs to stop pushing for favors and continually visiting her office. The letter clearly stated that the police service is stretched and all areas will be treated fairly and without favor.

The letter was very professional, something the MPs decided to interpret as in bad faith. MPs decision in this case is unfortunate as it implies that merit can be subordinated to myopic egoistic interests. Truth be told, most legislators cannot pass the stringent requirements in chapter six of the Constitution undergirding public officers’ behavior.

More importantly, this process makes a case for vetting law. Many public officers vetted since March 2013 have had questionable pasts and the true considerations of legislators in approving or rejecting a candidate remain very subjective.

A vetting law would stipulate:

  1. How the process should be undertaken,
  2. Entrench the requirements for each candidate,
  3. Set a threshold to pass; and,
  4. Include any recourse mechanisms that the appointing authority or nominee can take if they feel dissatisfied with the process.

Mortals are reactionary hence this vetting should push Parliament and the Attorney General’s Office to hasten the drafting and passing of the necessary legislation. Clear guidelines for future public appointment interviews should be put in place to ensure merit prevails rather than political expediency.

CDF and Women Fund allocations in the budget are unconstitutional

Posted by on 8th June 2015

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Parliament has been engaged in intense negotiations over the division of revenue Bill that finally saw an agreement passed. The National Assembly deducted funds from Senate, Judiciary and the Salary Remuneration Commission allocations as a form of punishment. The three institutions especially SRC and Judiciary have stood up to Parliament, something the legislators have felt should not be the case.

Even as the debate settles, there is need to scrutinize the specifics of the budget. Public scrutiny at this point is critical before the main budget is read to the nation. This is a public duty and constitutional requirement all need to undertake.

In its ruling few months ago, the High Court held that the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) Act should be amended to conform to the Constitution. This move irked the MPs, and for this reason they decided to punish the Judiciary by reducing its allocation.

Some MPs have come out publicly that they will appeal. Instructively, the Constituency Development Fund Board has put out a request for public input to inform amendments to the current law in order to comply with the court order and the Constitution.

In utter disregard of the High Court ruling, Parliament has gone ahead and allocated itself funds for CDF. Over sh38B has been allocated to CDF in the next financial year up from the current sh37.34B. This shows that Parliamentarians are not interested in abiding by the law.

In addition, there seems to be an allocation of sh2.03B as Affirmative Action Fund. This fund is what is also referred to us ‘Women Fund’ which was fought for by the 47 Women Representatives who wanted a fund for various programs in the counties.

In the court ruling regarding CDF, the Judges were clear that

…nowhere is it contemplated that a constituency shall be one of the beneficiaries of the national revenue before it is divided between the national and county government. Article 206 (1) (a) and (b) of the Constitution…

The Judges further stated that

In light of the specific grant and definition of legislative powers under the provisions of Articles 95 and 96 of the Constitution, we find that the involvement of the Members of Parliament in the CDF implementation violates the core principle of separation of powers and to this extent, the CDF Act is unconstitutional. We will also add here that, to the extent that the Act conflates the executive and legislative functions, it obfuscates accountability mechanism envisaged under the Constitution underpinned by the doctrine of separation of powers. In that respect, the Act violates key national values and principles enunciated under Article 10 of the Constitution, to wit, good governance and accountability and we so find.

It is clear from the ruling that the Judges found CDF against separation of powers principle and public finance in the Constitution. For Parliament to allocate funds to it and even add funds for Women Fund is tantamount to contempt of court. Parliament needs to show leadership and restraint and this decision is far from it.

A Bi-cameral Parliament should serve Kenyans as envisioned in the Constitution

Posted by on 29th May 2015

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Kenya’s constitutional movement from old to the current one has been eventful and inspiring. Five years on, much has been accomplished and much still needs to be done. Any transition requires changes in attitudes, values, practices and mindsets. Development of a new constitutional culture will also depend on whether there is genuine, collective and deliberate effort to embrace the new order.

Even with the desired political will to implement the Constitution, the complexity involved in building institutions will pose a challenge. The required changes in institutions and in systems of governance introduced by the Constitution will take time to be fully effective. This realization informed the National Assembly’s Budget and Appropriations Committee decision to form a working group to audit the Constitution.

The group has produced an interim report which affirms that the Constitution has been a blessing but more needs to be done to realize its true aspirations, both in what Kenyans wanted and also in what the document articulates.

On Parliament, the report makes some accurate observations;

Under a pure presidential system such as the one adopted in the Constitution, MPs from the President‘s party or coalition are supposed to balance between two contradictory roles i.e. checking the executive in the national interest and safeguarding their coalition‘s legacy for future elections. MPs from the minority party or coalition are also supposed to support the executive in the quest for the attainment of the national interest and oversight on the national executive.

In practice, though, Parliament has carried out its business with the collective mindset of a parliamentary or mixed system of government. The majority coalition sees itself as the government side while the minority side sees itself as the opposition. The current system of government envisages Parliament working cohesively to push the legislative agenda at the national level. The practice of positioning the Majority Leader as a ―government spokesman in Parliament while seeing the minority coalition as a ―shadow cabinet is, therefore, in dissonance with the system of government in the Constitution.

The root of the problem is an entrenched bad culture spanning years but which needs to be uprooted. Kenyan Parliamentarians superiority complex is exemplified in Bills debate and appointment of various officials. The last two years have also seen Parliament go against the text and spirit of the Constitution. It does not help much when Senate and National Assembly constantly haggle over issues.

Parliament needs to embrace the principle of cooperative government and commit to its application in resolving disputes. Alternative dispute resolution procedures should be pursued and legal redress sought where all else fails. In addition, clear guidelines for determining when proposed laws affect the counties or not should be established.

For the aspirations of Kenyans presented to the Constitution to be realized, Parliamentarians in their functions need to abide by the law as presented in the Constitution. This will go a long way in making Kenya a united country.

Parliamentarians ranking exposed serious gaps in civic education

Posted by on 23rd May 2015

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Article 35 of the 2010 Constitution clearly stipulates that Kenyan citizens have a right to access information. When article 35 (1) (a) is interpreted loudly, it may also requires government to ensure that information is not just accessible but also sufficiently understood by Kenyans. This is for purposes of empowering them and ultimately enriching our young democracy. Solid democracy is pegged on an informed citizenry.

The Parliamentarians ranking stories published by the Daily Nation earlier this week exposed serious gaps in civic education and also the opportunities available to various stakeholders to improve the exercise. First, the Parliamentarians perception survey revealed the public’s general lack of awareness of the duties of their representatives in Parliament. The reasons the public gave for ranking their Parliamentarians as capable or incapable provide useful pointers to the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) on the main gaps to be addressed in civic education.

Secondly, the framing of the Survey question “How would you rate the performance of your Senator/MP on a scale of 1 to 10? (Where 1 was extremely poor and 10 excellent)” was alarmist and sensational at best.  The question was simplistic, assumptive and served to confuse an already confused populace. The Daily Nation failed to competently take up its agenda setting and educational role by not formulating a question which highlighted Parliamentarians work.

Thirdly, it is unfortunate that the survey question in some way perpetuated the myth on the work of a Kenya MP and trashed the facts. The job description of parliamentarians is short and clear, Kenyans pay them to legislate, oversight and represent them, all of which are carried in Parliament.  By not putting parameters that really matter, the survey missed a chance to shape a productive national discussion on whether Kenyans are getting value for their money.

Fourthly, for Kenya to grow as a democracy, transparency and accountability, from all stakeholders in civic education must be keen with the details and not the buzz that little talk elicits. In the same case, the simplistic ranking of parliamentarians may have generated too much heat but Kenyans are still in an eclipse on issues concerning the role of parliamentarians.

Pollsters in Kenya have failed to understand demographic dynamics in our country and the background within which an opinion or lack of it is formed. The survey cheered mediocrity among the elected members and failed to recognize the diligence of some elected or even nominated members who have been active in the house. A sidebar story on the actual responsibilities of MPs and Senators would have gone a long way in civic education.

For instance Senators are supposed to be ranked based on their principal function of being the guardians of the counties. A quick check of the Hansard via will reveal that the Senator who ranked first never contributed anything on April 9th when the Senate was discussing the Division of Revenue Bill which has caused a stalemate between the Senate and the National Assembly. The same Hansard will reveal that the Senator who ranked last defended his county’s interests during the discussion.

In the end, perception ranking that is based on nothing, with no clear goals and objectives, may end up creating fertile grounds for personalized solutions rather than institutional based solutions. The media needs to be challenged to refrain from juicy headlines especially on an important issue like the competence of our elected leaders. In Kenya the media is the number one tool for civic education and therefore quality is of essence.