Why MPs have failed in war on corruption

Legislators have not censored any implicated minister

In Summary

• Kenyans have in the recent been treated to circus-like “fight against corruption”.

• Blame game has been the norm under the disguise of democratic space

Members of the National assembly at Parliament
Members of the National assembly at Parliament

Corruption and lack of integrity among state and public officials is not a new phenomenon in Kenya.

As early as 1956, Parliament enacted the Prevention of Corruption Act. Between 1993-1995, there was the infamous Police Anti-corruption Squad, while in 1997, in renewed efforts to fight the menace, the government enacted the Legal Notice No10 of 1997. This amended the Prevention of Corruption Act and established the Kenya Anti Corruption Authority.

Upon the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution, the fight against graft was constitutionalised. Perhaps this was because there was a nationwide feeling that autonomy and constitutional protection of the anti-corruption agency would lead to an effective war. Eight years down the line, Kenyans are still suffocated by the nasty grim of corruption. Why so?

Kenyans have in the recent been treated to circus-like “fight against corruption”. Blame game has been the norm under the disguise of democratic space. Corruption suspects and their cronies have continuously sought public sympathy in barazas and funerals.

But Parliament shares blame for the corruption menace for the following reasons.

First, Parliament is constitutionally mandated under Article 95 (5) to oversight the functions and operations of the other arms of government. The oversight role in this context is two pronged. One, it vets the nominees for various office holders and two, it can initiate the removal of these officers, if their actions are ultra vires. Unfortunately, despite Parliament having the power to vet, approve and/or censure state and public officers, we have not seen that being done.

In numerous circumstances, Kenyans have been treated to parliamentary committee reports with ambivalent suggestions of further investigations as opposed to proposing the removal of the indicted officers. These reports are “watered down” on the floor of the House amid claims of bribery. Its unfathomable how MPs have not censored any implicated minister, yet at every public event, they will be heard claiming to be in possession of evidence against certain individuals.

Second, Parliament in certain instances has passed legislations that are incompetent and toothless. Chapter six of the Constitution was viewed by many as a game changer in promoting integrity in our governance system. However, when Parliament had the opportunity to enact the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Act, the end result was a vague and inconsequential law in dealing with ethical and integrity issues the country has struggled with for decades.

It is arguable that Parliament intended to cure a disease without delving into the cause. The EACC Act majorly deals with corruption as opposed to ethical and integrity issues. Unlike corruption, ethics and integrity are not criminally punitive and cannot be dealt with within the criminal law realm. They border on moral questions that this law failed to sufficiently address.

This inadequacy has negatively impacted attempts to ensure integrity and the win in the war against corruption. In fact, the EACC is presently incapable of efficiently ensuring and promoting integrity among state officials.

The same predicaments have befallen the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission while clearing aspirants for elective positions. As a result, the requirements of Chapter Six have been turned into a money-minting machine for the government and an impediment to job seeking Kenyans. Consequently the institutions charged with ensuring integrity have shifted their focus to anti-corruption war. And as we all know, corruption being a criminal offence, every suspect will be entitled to a fair hearing – a right that must be left unimpeded.

In summary, instead of moving around the country blaming other arms of government for inability to fight graft, MPs must play their role impartially and competitively.

Jumah is an Advocate and a legal research consultant

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