11th Parliament on track with the passing of Access to Information Bill

Posted by on 9th May 2016

Categories: Uncategorized

C.S Lewis once said, “If you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one.” The 11th Parliament has done one good deed in passing the long overdue, Access to Information Bill. The bill sponsored by Hon. Priscilla Nyokabi ends an over 10 years wait.

Kenyans for a long time, have had to conform to the idea that information was a privilege of a few powerful bureaucrats both in private and public institutions. But it’s the government officials that intimidated anyone who sought information by invoking the Official Secrets Acts of 1968 but that is now set to change. This Bill reasserts the fact that access to information is the right of every citizen and that the government is only a custodian of that information.

The Bill went through the third reading in the National Assembly and now awaits input from the Senate before being presented to the President for assent. When the law becomes operational, any public or private institution that withholds information requested by a private citizen or any Kenyan for that matter will face criminal charges.

If any requested information has not been provided as requested within 21 days, one can seek redress in High Court on grounds of violation of rights and if found guilty the individual can serve up to 3 years in jail or fined up to Ksh. 500,000.

Furthermore, in the event that a secret information has been leaked through a whistleblower, anyone can seek to have the leaked information, arguing that it is already in the public domain. However, leaking of classified information that may compromise national security would lead to a jail term of 3 years in a maximum security prison or a fine of Ksh1 million.

While this is good for all Kenyans, the biggest benefactors are journalists, civil rights groups and activists who have long had antagonistic relationship with public officials and corrupt private entities with regard to sharing of information.

With the passing of this Bill, we are likely to see more prosecutions as information that was previously held on dubious grounds will no longer be an impediment to justice. This will indeed lead to a proactive reform within and without government as most of the culprits will begin to put their houses in order before they are caught flat footed.

This Bill reinforces the country’s commitment to press freedom and indeed the media fraternity will reap hugely from it.

Most of the challenges Kenyans experience are directly related to lack of information. From misdiagnosis to criminal activities; even elections. A country’s leadership is as sound as the electorate and indeed an informed electorate makes informed choices when voting in leaders.

Once it becomes law, the civil rights organisations that have been pushing for open governance and transparency in government dealings with its public can rest easy knowing that their concerns did not fall on deaf ears.

But having a good law is one thing, following it is another all together. It is now upon Kenyans to take advantage of this Bill once it becomes law to make leaders in government and private sector accountable to the people by adhering to the law.

Failure to Pass the Duale Bill Reeks of Chauvinism

Posted by on 29th April 2016

Categories: Uncategorized

Ever wondered why the goat would never dance to tune no matter how beautifully you play? Indeed Kenyans wonder with the same intensity why MPs would never do their bidding regardless of how much they shout on social media and different platforms about what they want. It’s sad that the National Assembly need another week to be convinced to pass the two thirds gender principle.

Never mind that both President Uhuru and opposition leader Raila Odinga both supported the Duale Bill and marshaled their troops to vote for it. That’s because the Bill has a progressive agenda and it should have defined the 11th Parliament.

The Duale Bill is progressive because it reaffirms just how futuristic our Constitution is. The Bill puts to an end the two thirds gender debate and provides a solution in the event women elected in Parliament did not meet the threshold but some MPs would not hear of it. Twenty eight (28) MPs voted against it and more than 20 others refused to vote or declare their abstention. With only 195 voting yes, the Bill could not sail.

And yet on the same day, when it came to debating a Bill that sought to shield Parliamentarians from prosecution there was a rare show of unity.  The Bill passed by an overwhelming 242-5 considering they only needed a minimum of 233 votes for it to sail through.

The Bill sponsored by Homa Bay (Town) MP Peter Kaluma seeks to prevent MPs and MCAs from any prosecution regarding anything they say so long as it was done or said in “good faith”. The Speaker exercised his full powers to ensure as many MPs as possible got a chance to vote for the “important Bill” and went ahead to say that National Assembly could now operate without interference from the Judiciary.

The question most Kenyans should ask is why are our lawmakers so afraid of their women counterparts? Is this Parliament sexist or is it just patriarchy on display? The Constitution is the most binding document in any nation and Kenyans passed it knowing about the two thirds gender principle. This was enough to signal that the country was on a progressive path and Kenyans were no longer willing to be stagnated by old ideologies.

Perhaps we should look at the nay voters and those who decided not to vote and draw parallelism between the projects they have spearheaded in their constituency and the benefits women have received from such projects. It does not make sense why anyone would not want empowered and emancipated women in the 21st Century.

The world has changed a great deal and our MPs should realize that women, like men are interested in a better future for all of us, any thinking contrary to this can be easily interpreted as prejudice.

Our legislators will do well to prove otherwise by passing this Constitutional Bill on 5th May.  We are watching.

 

April 2016

Posted by on 27th April 2016

Categories: Elections 2017

IEBC Credibility in Question:

The month saw a number of players question the IEBC’s credibility. The lead has been the CORD coalition following the rejection of the Okoa Kenya signatures. The Opposition has harboured a grievance against the IEBC since 2013 Supreme Court decision about the contested Presidency and now calls for disbandment of the Commission.

  • 9th April: The Catholic bishops, the Chief Justice and Civil Society Organizations warned of violence in the next election unless the government does ‘something radical.’
  • 21st April: The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) also pointed out the IEBC credibility is in doubt as it has not put in place the necessary reforms to hold a credible election. Public confidence in the IEBC is at an all-time low at 28 per cent.
  • 23rd April: The National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) joined the bandwagon pushing for the reconstruction of the IEBC in the lead up to the Elections to inspire public confidence. The church body also called for a new Supreme Court and public testing of all electronic equipment to be used in the polls.
  • 25th April: The Law Society of Kenya also joined calls for the disbandment and reconstitution of the IEBC and in particular asked the Chair Isaack Hassan to step aside from his position as corruption investigations remain pending. The Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) also pushed for the same.

 

On the same day, CORD led their supporters to IEBC headquarters seeking to eject the officials from office, however their attempts were thwarted by heavy police presence and use of tear gas.

Given the prevailing doubts about the integrity, impartiality and capacity of the IEBC to run free and fair elections, will the institution be reconstituted in time for the 2017 elections?

 

 

 

Hostility among government officials only hurts the country

Posted by on 22nd April 2016

Categories: Uncategorized

Not so long ago Kenyans were ranked second happiest people in the region after Somali. For a happy people, it’s rather disturbing how quarrelsome and petty we can get with each other. From the National to the devolved government, Senate to National Assembly, Kenyans are always shouting at each other.

The apparent grudge the two levels of government have towards each other is playing out in Parliament. The Senate and National Assembly are at each other’s neck. One minute debating which House is more powerful, the next minute ignoring reason from either side.

The confusion that has characterized the implementation of the Constitution has been baffling to say the least.  Whether one supported the Constitution or not is inconsequential, it reflects the will of the people and its words are law.

It’s not lost to the public, especially those acquainted with devolution matters, the frustration devolved governments have faced courtesy of the national government. Point in case being the late disbursement of funds and failure to honor transition of important devolved services, which are still run by State parastatals.

Nonetheless, the public remains aware of the monies squandered by the devolved government in useless projects that have little bearing for the country or the specific counties. From overpriced wheelbarrows to bloated county legal charges.

This in a sense justifies the idea that devolution has succeeded in devolving corruption. What we have is not devolution but rather a replication of a centralized government in the form of 47 individuals who unfortunately consider their positions to be bigger than what they actually are.

The Senate which is expected to protect devolution in the House, appears to be the most frustrated by the process. Resulting to senators rallying colleagues to abscond the 3rd Devolution conference in Meru, which had health as one of the agendas that both houses have debated fervently on the floor.

The two arms of government that can implement devolution, the Executive and Parliament were conspicuously missing at the event. Only one MP and two Senators saw it sensible to attend the devolution conference.

Meanwhile National Assembly has renewed their fight against approval of the Ksh322 million for oversight by Senators. Not too long ago, Senators had promised to block any legislation from National Assembly over the same.

While the country is being treated to a circus of power play a few questions come to mind, what is so scary about devolution that we can’t support it accordingly? Who loses when the country goes through successful devolution?

Why can’t the national government provide funds in good time close down parastatals performing devolved functions and let devolution thrive? This is the sure way to absolve itself of blame from the public.

As for the County governments, the electorate should not spare those governors who devolved corruption in their counties or the Members of County Assembly who can’t rise to be counted. Why should the Senate be fighting to introduce oversight role when MCAs are supposed to hold their County governments in check?

Most importantly, can we find a way to extend the right of recall to governors as well? Power is with the people and until we make it clear who has the power, the elite will continue to take us through these meaningless wars of words that leave us poorer.

Banks Collapse Point to MPs not Conducting their Watchdog Role Properly

Posted by on 14th April 2016

Categories: Uncategorized

Someone did say Kenyans were born on the eighth day. To prove the unique-ness that is our country, trouble is brewing in the banking industry but important people want bloggers and users of social media arrested for the collapse of these banks not fraudsters.

Meanwhile, our MPs are now breathing fire! But the all-important question Kenyans are asking is, why the knee-jerk reaction when they could have formulated laws to protect Kenyans before?

As the MP for Tongaren Hon. David Eseli puts it, the 11th Parliament was a sleep. He asked his fellow lawmakers where was the finance committee when National Bank (NBK) announced they were selling their branches, and declared a profit while at it?

It was under the watch of the 11th Parliament that at least three banks have been placed under receivership to the detriment of Kenyan depositors who know little about banking jargon to decide the safest course of action or “safest banks” to deal with. And their ignorance is justified because their duty is to pay taxes not become experts at banking.

Furthermore, they put their faith in legislators whose duty is law making; including laws that inform financial institutions business by sealing gaps and loopholes that can be used unfavorably against Kenyan depositors. Now depositors are angry and confused after their hard earned money disappeared with the closure of three banks.

If there was a time Parliament could’ve dealt with the challenges with the banking industry, then it was this Parliament. The 10th Parliament going back provides a broad canvas painted with stories of bank collapse going as far back as 1984 and with a total of at least 32 banks collapsing from 1984 to 2012. To their credit, the 11th Parliament did pass the Insolvency Act that was accented on 11th of September last year (2015) but its effects are yet to be seen.

The Act aimed at providing for and regulating the bankruptcy or liquidation of natural persons, incorporated and unincorporated bodies to enable their affairs to be managed for the benefit of their creditors. In light of the closure of these banks therefore, one wonders whether MPs realize besides passing Acts they are also responsible for ensuring they are enforced.

It’s indeed surprising that MPs are now investigating these bank collapses with the aim of making recommendations to protect depositors and banks from the illegal activities of rogue managers and shareholders. Why not enforce the Insolvency Act that allows for depositors to withdraw their savings even as they embark on that 30-day investigation ordered by the Speaker?

The 11th Parliament should note that the burden to resolve malpractice in the banking industry squarely lies on their shoulders. If they are not up to the task the electorate that have been affected by these illegal practices that continue to thrive will act decisively in 2017.

Are our lawmakers doing enough to ensure proper service delivery?

Posted by on 8th April 2016

Categories: Uncategorized

Our law makers, besides debating and passing bills have the mandate to represent their constituents and nothing explains proper representation than ensuring they get appropriate service delivery from especially national institutions. Unfortunately, most of our MPs and Senators have never grasped the work cut-out for them. Now that the ICC issue has been put to rest – which pre-occupied our lawmakers so much – let’s revisit this matter of service delivery.

It’s becoming common to have individuals heading different sectors grilled by relevant parliamentary committees for a few hours and then go back to the usual mundane way of doing things. No wonder corruption is still alive and well despite the numerous interrogations of culprits by our lawmakers.

How can Parliament go beyond mere summoning and compiling reports and actually affect positively service delivery? And why is it appearing impossible to have proper service delivery in public institutions, especially after devolution? Already, Mathari hospital, the only referral psychiatric hospital is operating at double its capacity.

It’s not just hospitals, Kenyans and the country in general is losing billions of shillings unnecessarily because of shoddy road constructions. The Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) had to order a contractor to rebuild a road diversion on Mombasa-Nairobi highway to save what KeNHA refers to as “regional economies”. The decision came after commuters and transporters wasted 16 hours on the road.

Chaotic scenarios are brought about by lawlessness and lack of proper policy that can be adhered to for purposes of ensuring proper service delivery. While these disorders are also as a result of the public’s inability to operate within the limits of the law (read: payment of bribes for services); it is largely because of the helplessness and inability to see rule of law observed with regard to the service.

The mission and vision statements in most public institutions are therefore mere public relations stunts and reflect not an iota of truth. Perhaps if our MPs also used the same services as the people they represent they may be interested in articulating issues around service delivery. For example: It doesn’t make sense to get services from a private hospital but claim to champion for better services in a public hospital.

If law makers are unable to ensure proper service delivery to the people besides calling individuals for questioning without follow-up then perhaps it is time the public exercised their power through the constitution. The clause that any candidate seeking to represent the people through the County Assembly, National Assembly or Senate utilizes the same services as the people they represent should be added. That should also be extended to their families, including the schools their children attend.

Only then shall we have a guarantee that those vying for office are inspired by leadership rather than the perks that come with the office, otherwise this hypocrisy by our law makers will continue and sooner than later we shall begin to accept these poor services as the best we can have.

In the same breadth, feel free to give us your thoughts on how better we can handle service delivery in public institutions.

Of The State of Nation Address and Rowdy MPs

Posted by on 4th April 2016

Categories: Uncategorized

After two years of scandalous headlines. Kenyans should be forgiven for being a little cynical. Additionally, what equally breeds apathy and hopelessness in the country is the reality that there appears to be no alternative voice. A voice that can be relied upon by Kenyans, all we seem to have are goons.

As we approach elections, Kenyans are more concerned about corruption and whether we can have leaders who respect the rule of law. Therefore, it is hypocritical for one to claim a government is promoting impunity by failing to punish those who disregard the law, when they have no problem flouting House rules.

It doesn’t matter one’s passion, disregarding standing orders and defying the speaker, speaks volume about your general disregard for the rule of law. Nothing could be more dishonorable than whistling down an important address as that of state of the nation. Democracy in the 21st century demands decorum.

That aside, this government does not appear fully interested in dealing with corruption head on. Currently, Kenya is ranked position 139th out of 169 countries by Transparency International global corruption index. Other than asking the courts to step up, there’s nothing new the government offered. The President only read about reports on assets recovered. This is nothing compared to the unprosecuted cases. To that end, the president’s state of the nation address was largely another PR display.

The president’s argument that his government has shown better by giving more than the stipulated 15% to devolution, is countered by the fact that the financial year is ending two months from now and county governments have not yet received half their county’s budget. The result of this is, counties incurring unnecessary debts and killing the industrial spirit at that level.

Also, the matter of inclusivity will play a huge part in the next election. Uhuru’s government has been big on rewarding old people with plum parastatal jobs when the youth languish in joblessness.  This recycling of old leaders negates any talk on inclusivity. This is quite a disappointment.

However, it’s important to acknowledge a few things, the president got right on few things. Firstly, while firing his cabinet was more out of public pressure than his willingness, he nevertheless acted, severing important political alliances. This, should be recognized.

Likewise, despite the controversy around SGR, it is a project that will transform the country in many ways. The plans to expand it to Naivasha, Kisumu and Malaba will have marvelous results that we desire as a nation.

The President was right on the country’s hospitality industry; despite threats by terrorists, tourism industry is on the rise with new investors setting up shops in Mombasa and tourists flooding in. Indeed, all that wouldn’t be possible if Internal Security and Defence weren’t playing their part. We should learn to give the devil his due

In the meantime, let’s keep off unnecessary and divisive banter. Let’s also not be sycophants who approve everything without interrogating its usefulness to Kenya. Let’s critic better than our rogue law makers and where we disagree, let’s do it honorably, because Kenya will remain after we are gone.

March 2016

Posted by on 27th March 2016

Categories: Elections 2017

Accusations discrediting the electoral body by a number of disgruntled political parties increased.

  • 7th March: By-Elections: The IEBC ran by-elections in Kericho and Malindi. The two electoral posts fell vacant after President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed Charles Keter and Dan Kazungu Cabinet Secretaries for Energy and Mining respectively. The two by elections were hotly contested and unsubstantiated claims of rigging were peddled.

KANU, the losing Party in Kericho by-election led by its Chairman Baringo Senator Gideon Moi claimed that a group of experts employed by the party to probe the by election outcome, revealed massive discrepancies occasioned by use of technology which manipulated the outcome. They said that the IEBC relayed results wired to its servers by Jubilee Party (JP) which had been manipulated to inflate the figures of the eventual winner Aaron Cheruiyot.

In a rejoinder, IEBC dismissed claims by KANU. According to the IEBC CEO Ezra Chiloba, the Commission had not received any complaint of either electoral malpractice or misconduct, from the party, as required under the procedures of the Elections Act. Chiloba said the only concern raised by KANU on the night of the elections was that the results – which we understood to be provisional results – were coming in too fast. Chiloba said the Commission is in the process of compiling the report of the by-elections.

How will IEBC guard against such allegations in the coming elections?

  • 15th March: Voter RegistrationThe February/March mass voter registration (MVR) missed the target by 70% as the commission managed to register slightly under 1 million out of the expected 4 million. To say that was a dismal performance is an understatement. Their reason for failing to meet the target was the usual excuse of insufficient funds. Meaning the Ksh. 500 million given to them was not enough to register all eligible voters.

 

  • 28th March: Okoa Kenya Referendum The opposition coalition –CORD-, push to change the Constitution collapsed in March when the electoral commission ruled that they had failed to get one million signatures necessary to force a referendum. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission declared that only 891,598 signatures out of the 1.6 million submitted by Cord, had been found to be authentic.

 

Apparently, the names rejected were those not found in the voters register. Some records had signatures but without ID or passport numbers while others had just names and no other entries. In total, the verifiers found that 741,979 of the 1,633,577 submitted had failed to meet the threshold authenticating only 891,598 of the signatures as valid.

 

Constitutional amendments can only happen through a referendum if it is supported by at least one million registered voters which the Okoa Kenya Initiative did not attain. A proposed constitutional amendment initiative can only be tabled before county assemblies if the IEBC has verified the signatures accompanying the proposed amendment and is satisfied that the amendment initiative is in accordance with the law.

 

The rejection of Okoa Kenya worsened the already grim relationship between the Opposition coalition and the electoral body. As a result, the Opposition has criminalized the institution among its supporters. Can the IEBC regain its credibility?

MPs lack enthusiasm in scrutinizing the Division of Revenue Bill

Posted by on 24th March 2016

Categories: Uncategorized

Our law makers are always attentive and enthusiastic when scrutinizing anything relating to their heavy perks. This excitement and attention is hardly reciprocated when important issues come to the floor of the house. Take the Distribution of Revenue Allocation Bill for Instance; National Treasury and Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) disagree on many issues with regard to funding of counties. But, MPs and Senators who should debate and provide way forward remain lethargic.

Devolution was supposed to deal with inequitable distribution of resources that was established under the previous centralized government. In effecting this, The Distribution of Revenue Allocation Bill was expected to remedy these disparities.

Our law makers should be at the fore front asking why we have a distribution formula that does not consider all parameters to ensure equitable sharing. There is also some sort of vagueness, for instance what does the term National Interest mean, especially because Ksh. 22 billion was allocated for “National Interest” which includes: NYS re-engineering and the Laptop project. Are our law makers in agreement that these are indeed national interests?

Besides, Senators who are supposed to be the defenders of devolution should be validating CRA claims that more money needs to be given to counties because as the commission explains, counties inherited workers from the government hence increased wage bill.

Secondly, that functions have been devolved mean higher operation costs and they are putting across an important logic, that, why should the National government increase their budget while offloading some of their functions to county governments and reducing county budget despite the increasing roles they are taking up from the national government? These are issues you expect Senate or National Assembly to provide a clear voice on.

Indeed devolution is expected to bring power (involvement at policy making) to the people through public participation but that important political activity remains poorly conducted. While Kenyans are equally reluctant to engage in public participation of important political events, our law makers have not attempted to address the issue genuinely; which may mean they are not really keen on the public’s involvement. In fact both National Assembly and Senate are guilty of giving sometimes one day notices of public participation.

The plea to our law makers is that as people charged with the duty of defending the constitution, they should show more enthusiasm, especially now that a lot of institutions are still on transition to live up to the spirit of the constitution. As far as Distribution of Revenue Allocation Bill is concerned they should have debated CRA recommendations verses the National Treasury implementation plan.

Parliamentarians should give up the self-defeating flexing of muscles between them and the county government that only stalls the implementation of the new constitution. They should instead work consultatively with both county and National government and make laws that help the country see the fruits of devolution as envisioned in the constitution.

For starters, it has emerged through CRA that part of the reason counties are under-funded is because we have State Corporations performing devolved functions creating unnecessary duplication of roles. Why can’t Senators and MPs identify and deal with these State corporations that are performing devolved functions and as a result hoarding funds meant to be used by county government?

These are the issues law makers should spend more time on than worrying about raising the budget ceiling to ensure MPs elected in 2017 have a new car.

The IEBC Fails Litmus Test

Posted by on 18th March 2016

Categories: Uncategorized

Nothing irks than watching someone engage in a pointless activity; even worse when such an activity indirectly affects your life. Despite having been a King of what is now Corinth, Sisyphus is mostly remembered for the useless job that he was cursed to do-rolling a huge rock up a hill and watching it tumble down and repeating the exercise over and over. Like Sisyphus Kenyans have a penchant for using our hard earned taxes on institutions we know won’t deliver but we don’t mind the cycle. It’s our curse.

IEBC is probably the one institution that makes the whole country appear as though it is cursed. Forget the scandals and controversies’ surrounding this important commission, IEBC appears clueless about their objective, constantly giving excuses and apportioning blame unnecessarily.

Firstly, by their own admission, the recently concluded mass voter registration (MVR) missed the target by 70% as the commission managed to register slightly under 1 million. To say that was a dismal performance is an understatement. Their reason for failing to meet the target was the usual chorus- insufficient funds. Meaning Ksh. 500 million given to them was not enough to register 3 million eligible voters.

Never mind the civil society groups and activists who mobilized people online to go and register outside IEBC’s budget. The commission did not give the much needed guidance and information about the exercise in good time. Despite their continuous request for more funds there’s little evidence of voter education as can be confirmed by the results.

It appears the by-elections eclipsed the MVR which in a sense may point to the disorganization and inability by IEBC to run parallel activities. Interestingly, countries with far bigger eligible voters spend less than what IEBC requested with impressive results which begs the question: are the dynamics here too different or the commission is over relying on financial resource at the expense of strategy? And when IEBC complains that political leaders were not involved are they admitting incompetence and therefore require outside help to achieve their targets?

Admittedly, regions where leaders called on people to register had impressive results but that was partly because leaders from these regions claimed IEBC was not fully in control of the exercise and accused the government of interferences. Consequently, the commission had to clarify that the BVR kits they had surrendered to the Devolution ministry had been wiped clean of any data and could not be used for any parallel registration. Even so they went ahead to warn politicians of engaging in parallel registration.

The argument over voter apathy also holds little water as most eligible voters were turned away for having old generation ID cards when IEBC should have foreseen that challenge and acted proactively to ensure nobody was turned away. In other cases, there were fewer BVR kits prompting some individuals to make unsubstantiated allegations over favoritism by the IEBC.

We have about one year to the next general elections and the referee in this high-stakes elections four years away is still failing the credibility test. Kericho and Malindi by-elections are testaments that IEBC has a long way to go in so far as carrying out satisfactorily credible elections are concerned. All the major parties involved have cried foul and enough media reports showed political leaders in compromising situations yet IEBC did not bring any one to book.

For starters, IEBC should think less about funding and more about strategy. Strategy ensures you achieve a lot with less funds, then embark on a cleaning exercise by vetting afresh all commissioners and firing those mentioned in corruption cases or have pending cases, then seek funding.