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.


Access to Information Bill 2014

Posted by on 18th February 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

The Access to Information Bill 2014 will be presented to Parliament by Hon. Priscilla Nyokabi  this year as a private members Bill. This bill affects public access to information held by government institutions and bodies. All Interested people should therefore raise their concerns and interests.

Find it here to read and learn more Access to information Bill

Over the next two weeks, feel free to comment on it on our blog or Facebook page.  We will share your comments and concerns with her.

For How Long will Parliamentarians be deemed ‘Untouchable’?

Posted by on 13th February 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

Parliamentarians as the indirect people representatives are not above the law. However, their recent actions seem to assert they are! The National Assembly Speaker’s decision not to punish MPs who acted dishonorably during the Security Laws (Amendment) bill debate is essentially tolerance of status quo. The decision sends a wrong message on how to deal with difficult situations.

Apparently, the Parliamentarians only got a warning that such behavior will not be tolerated again. Some MPs had wanted to use the House Business Committee membership to remove the members who took part in the chaos as punishment for their actions.

When will our Parliamentarians start taking responsibility for their actions? Parliament is an honorable house. Its duties as per the Constitution lie at the core of public interest. With such a high value placed on the institution and the individuals who occupy it, Parliament must be accorded due respect.

Punishing the culpable MPs would have set a precedent and checked the possibility of a repeat of such behavior in the future. One laudable proposal is amending the standing orders which some legislators including Deputy Speaker Hon. Joyce Laboso alluded to. However, even in their current form, the standing orders have provisions and structures to effectively discipline Parliamentarians.

Parliament’s powers and privileges committee function is to ensure these elected leaders behave in an honorable manner both inside and outside Parliament. It has power to censure a member and ban them from attending some sittings. A ban of more than eight consecutive sittings would see a member loose his or her seat following which a by-election ensues.

Political parties are not immune either. They have been mum in the face of their members reckless behavior exhibited in the house. Some have lauded their colleagues for a job well done, meaning the behavior had the blessings of the parties. This is certainly unfortunate and sends the wrong message about the behavior political parties condone.

A lot of what ails Kenya is not the lack of laws or measures to curb things like graft, mismanagement or indiscipline. It is lack of enforcement. This has a direct implication on leadership and how it perceives and implements rules.

MPs are peoples’ representatives and their actions should be in line with what voters would deem to be public interest. It is highly unlikely that Kenyans of sound mind would be proud to be associated with appalling behavior. How can Kenyans censure their Parliamentarians behavior in the course of duty?

It should also be noted that MPs do not operate in a vacuum. In the space are institutions, laws and people who are observing them. The MPs did not have kind words for the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) when it informed that their behavior breached chapter six. This move was tantamount to them saying they are above the Constitution.

Only being decisive at all times will Parliament show it committed to the rule of law and it is a dignified house of honorable members.


CDF and Uwezo Fund Allocations: What Every Kenyan Must Know

Posted by on 6th February 2015

Categories: CDF Uwezo fund

It is no doubt that since the establishment of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), tangible projects have been undertaken in most constituencies across the country. CDF has helped construct classrooms, bridges, roads, hospitals and paid school fees for many among other noble tasks.

However over the period, allegations impropriety have abounded. First, low public consultation in projects prioritization is often mentions. Secondly, social audits have revealed the amount allocated to the projects are often excess. Thirdly the public has raised concerns that leaders do not prioritize integrity and qualifications in the selection of CDF committee members but reward their cronies.

Before the next CDF allocations are decided upon, Kenyans need to know that:

i) The CDF Committee exists to serve constituents interests so the public should influence its membership selection and be proactive to have a say on project prioritization;

ii) Each CDF office presents their budget with projects to the CDF Board for consideration. Projects are considered based on amounts requested. At this stage the CDF Board assumes that the projects are what the public want. In some instances, some projects are rejected as unfeasible;

iii) Once the projects are approved by the board, the details are then published in the CDF Board website. If you check it, you will find all the allocations and projects proposed; and

iv) The public can use the projects approved by the CDF Board to check fidelity at implementation.

On the other hand, Uwezo Fund exists to enable women, youth and persons with disability access finances to promote businesses and enterprises at the constituency level. MPs are patrons of the fund and the public has a say on the funds distribution.

Constituency Uwezo Fund Management Committees oversee implementation of the Fund in each Constituency. The committee has representatives of Women, Youth and persons with disability.

Applying for this fund requires strict adherence to the following procedures.

i) The first thing is to sign up for a Capacity Building Programme and ensure you get a certificate. This provides access to training but also preferential tenders under the 30 percent Public Procurement tender opportunities for Youth, Women and persons with disability. Many youth groups forget this first crucial step and fail to get the funds.

ii) The fund has a cap of Ksh. 500000 to a youth group at one time. Groups that access the Fund have a grace period of six (6) months and thereafter pay the loan in eight installments. And;

iii) The amount loaned does not attract interest but a 3 percent administration fee is charged.iv) Funds for Youth and Women living with Disabilities are given special consideration. More details on Uwezo Fund.

Women Representatives will soon be controlling Sh2.03 billion for social empowerment in their counties, about sh7 million per constituency. Kenyans must look out for the regulations guiding it in order to capitalize on it.

Only vigilance will ensure these funds are prioritized properly and utilized diligently.

State Officers Must be Called to Order

Posted by on 30th January 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

Of late Parliamentarians have been acting in an undignified manner. Relevant Constitutional offices and institutions need to check Parliamentarians behavior to remind them the offices they hold require high integrity and good behavior at all times.

The recent behavior of Hon. Alfred Keter in which he used his office to abuse public officers and demand release of a truck owned by Hon. Sunjeev Birdi which had been lawfully held for lack of proper documentation is a case in point. The behavior of Senator Stephen Ntutu and MPs, Richard Kenta, Patrick Ntutu, Johana Ngeno and Korei Lemein was not only unfortunate but dishonorable in leading a protest which had been banned by the Cabinet Secretary for Interior.

The actions of these state officers are not in isolation. Many others have acted in similar manner in the past but nothing has been done to discipline them. They seem to believe that they are either above the law or the law does not apply to them. This is contrary to reality.

This breach of Chapter six of the Constitution and the Leadership and Integrity Act, 2012 cannot continue unabated. These state officers have an obligation to promote Constitutionalism as the public expects them to exercise their mandate in a manner befitting of the positions they hold.

Their behavior – as the Constitution Implementation Commission (CIC) has noted – needs to bring honor to the nation and dignity to the office and promote public confidence in its integrity. Unfortunately, their actions are contrary to these noble provisions.

Article 75(2) of the Constitution makes it mandatory that a state officer who contravenes the above provisions is subjected to applicable disciplinary procedures and may be dismissed or removed from office. If a state officer is dismissed or removed from office, they are disqualified from holding any other state office. Subjection to disciplinary procedures is not selective or elective but mandatory under the Constitution.

First, the Powers and Privileges Committees of Parliament must reign in their behavior. This committee oversees the behavior of MPs and Senators inside and outside Parliament and needs to be seen to be worthy the powers vested in it.

Secondly, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) must also come in strongly to investigate and recommend to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) their prosecution for gross misconduct.

Thirdly, Political Parties who send these members to Parliament should also send the right message to the Country by disallowing and punishing its errant members.

It was on the basis of chapter six that in January 2012, the then Deputy Chief Justice Nancy Baraza was required to vacate office for allegedly acting in a manner inconsistent with her State office.

Chapter six requires state officers to maintain fidelity to the Constitution as it sets a high bar for the conduct of State officers. This is not a favor but an obligation which they must comply with and where they do not, disciplinary institutions must take action.


Allocations to Constituencies and Counties call for your Participation

Posted by on 23rd January 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

In his book ‘Episodes; From an MP’s Diary’, Sen. Eng. Muriuki Karue shares his journey on how development projects initiated through harambees did not see the light of day. The government never saw much need to support projects like classrooms and health centres to support the welfare of the people. This became his agenda when he joined politics as an MP in 1997.

Considered the father of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) which came to fruition in 2003, the then MP, now Senator for Nyandarua County felt that setting aside five percent of government revenue would help ensure such projects are undertaken and the elected leaders can tangibly contribute the welfare of the electorate.

This year will be the 12th, since CDF has been disbursed to Constituencies. When marking ten years of its existence, the CDF Board authored that a total of sh106, 906, 102, 651 had been disbursed from 2003 to 2013 in the then 210 constituencies.

Each year, allocations increased. In the financial year 2013-2014, a total of sh21,973,899,997 was allocated while in this financial year 2014-2015, sh33 billion has been allocated. It is evident that the trend of increasing is not only remarkable but critical to alleviating poverty, ignorance and disease, the three core problem Kenya embarked on at independence.

Today with the position of Women Representatives, some more allocations to counties are on the way. The passage of the Affirmative Action Social Development Bill, will see the 47 Women Reps secure Sh2.03 billion from Treasury for social empowerment in their counties. The empowerment ranges from drug abuse control among the youth to entrepreneurial skills empowerment to women and the youth.

The kitty will be implemented if the regulations to guide the implementation of the Fund are approved by the Committee on Delegated Legislation in the National Assembly. The Women MPs will be patrons of the fund with each County receiving about Sh40 million each and about Sh7 million per constituency.

It is clear that allocations to MPs in this financial year will be over sh35 billion, a colossal amount that should go into good use because it is taxpayers money. It is only fair that those who pay these taxes not only have a say in how the funds are used but also participate in the planning process.

Public participation is not only a value in the Constitution but also a principle in governance which needs to take root. The funds should be spent according to the electorate’s needs and priorities. Further, the public must carry out social audits of the funds usage to establish quality.

Citizens have the duty to engage in line with Article 3 of the Constitution. As Parliament re-opens, take time to suggest how you want your taxes to be spent. Please use the hash-tag #BungeKE2015 and your views will be presented to Parliament. You have until 2 February 2015 to express yourself.

Let us engage Parliament more in 2015

Posted by on 15th January 2015

Categories: Uncategorized

Recent misbehavior by Parliamentarians within the precincts of Parliament and in public have brought to the fore questions about their actual roles and responsibilities. As representatives of the people in Parliament, Parliamentarians activity in many ways should reflect the pulse of the nation.

Parliament – Senate and National Assembly – performs representative, oversight and legislative functions which define and distribute the national cake to all. These functions being pivotal, mandate the people to engage more with the representatives they elected to ensure that these roles are skillfully and diligently executed.

The legislative role is about passing laws and amending existing laws to ensure they conform to today’s challenges and opportunities and are also progressive. 2015 marks the fifth year of the implementation of the Constitution and the period until August 27th, 2015 will mark a heavy legislative calendar in passing laws to implement it. In 2014, the National Assembly extended the period of passing some Bills meaning that they will be lumped together with those due this year, Bills to be passed.

There is a limit to postponing these Bills. For instance, the two thirds gender principle in Article 81 (b) of the Constitution must be implemented by August 27th as the Supreme Court Ruled in December 2012. Another critical Bill to be passed will be on public audit which will empower the Auditor General. In addition, the access to information law is crucial.

The representative role of Parliament means that they need to highlight and defend their employers; the people. Through question time, statements and motion, Parliamentarians put the interests of the people to the Executive arm of government. It is also supposed to challenge Executive that do not conform to the Constitution and the people’s reality.

In their oversight role, Parliamentarians check national budgetary allocations, the financial probity and general compliance of laws in all government departments. Oversight also includes submitting memoranda on Public appointments and petitions on issues and individuals, people have concerns about. The nomination of Joseph Boinett as the Inspector General of Police will be the first when it re-opens.

In addition, Kenyan Parliamentarians, also oversee special funds like the Constituency Development Funds (CDF) and the Uwezo Fund. A third Fund is set to be introduced this year – the Affirmative Action Social Development Fund.

Consequently, the electorate should take a pro-active role in trying to influence what Parliamentarians prioritize this year. This is key to promoting a people-centered Parliamentary agenda. Parliament re-opens in mid-February; Senate – February 10th and National Assembly, February 14th.

Over the next the two weeks, Mzalendo gives you an opportunity to present views on what Parliament should discuss when they re-open. The views will then be collated and presented to Parliament just before it re-opens. Feel free to post your comment on our blog, Facebook page or Twitter using the hashtag #BungeKE2015. Over to you!