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November 16, 2018

Impunity drives stampede for elective public office

Rush for seats
Rush for seats

Will the agencies vetting aspirants for elective office protect the public interest from the lords of impunity? Will Chapter Six of the 2010 Constitution guarantee that only people of impeccable integrity pass the accountability test?

Ours is a beautiful Constitution whose greatest challenge is dearth of constitutionalism and dampened consciences. The spirit of the law is missing.

Article 73 does not say one must have been proved guilty before being declared unfit to hold public office.

The supreme law requires the authority delegated to a state officer be a trust to be exercised in a manner that, “demonstrates respect for the people; brings honour to the nation, and dignity to the office; promotes public confidence in the integrity of the office; and vests in the state officer the responsibility to serve the people, rather than the power to rule them.”

The supreme law also defines the principles that underpin leadership and integrity. They include personal integrity, competence and suitability. Honesty, declaration of personal interest, and accountability are also cited.

But Article 73 seems to be ‘playing a guitar to sheep’. The animals cannot appreciate the value of what the master is doing.

To spite the law, suspects, defence lawyers, and the Judiciary have complicated matters. Anarchy reigns. State officers swim in filth that shames piglanders.

The conspirators, especially defence counsel, hold suspects should have exhausted all the appeal processes before Article 73 can apply to their well-paying clients. The law, so to speak, is a beautiful verse hidden in the Bible of secular life.

Fifteen institutions - the Chapter Six Working Group on Election Preparedness - have ‘ganged’ up against people of questionable conduct. These people are running for elective office. But the shield of accountability around steakholders does not seem strong enough to protect the public against known perpetrators of impunity.

Some of the agencies have been dancing on these issues, without tangible results that could advance accountability. The Directorate of Criminal Investigations, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Attorney General, the Judiciary, the Commission for University Education, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, among others, are in the accountability mix.

These agencies could allow known suspects to get away with impunity. But they seem in a hurry to get some work done. Vetting more than 15,000 ‘sinners’ needs more seriousness than the current haste against deadlines that were known five years ago.

The EACC has indicated it won’t allow people under investigation, or those with pending cases, to run for public office. Among them are 21 governors and assorted politicians with accountability questions.

But politicians and their lawyers have ganged up to undermine institutionalisation of integrity. Assorted potential criminals are aspiring for public office to protect the proceeds of deceit.

Some are wanted for abuse of office. Some are in court for corruption. Some are under investigation for loss of billions of shillings of public money. Some are being investigated for irregular award of public contracts worth billions of shillings. Some are facing charges of land grabbing. But they are all fighting for strategic positions around the public trough. They have tasted blood, and won’t let go.

Sorry, shame died the moment it was realised one could loot public resources without fear of accountability. The consciences of the perpetrators of impunity steeled when pilferage became fair game. The pilferage has graduated into full-scale plunder of public resources.

The ultimate test is on the IEBC to demonstrate that Chapter Six of the Constitution is key to restoring civility in public office. The EACC, under former ACK Archbishop Eliud Wabukala as chairman, has set the pace. Others should take the cue.

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