• A key legislative proposal by Nominated MP Gideon Keter, representing the youth, seeks an amendment to Section 9 of the Employment Act.
• The Employment Amendment Act (2019) Bill proposes that in respect to recruitment, an employer shall not require an employee for a contract of service to submit any clearance certificates for which payment is required.
The Higher Education Loans Board has given some sense of relief to many unemployed youths following the waiver of the fees charged to obtain the compliance certificate.
The move targeting individuals who never benefited from the student loans will now ensure the certificate is readily accessible free of charge on their website and the e-citizen platform. This followed a public outcry on the need to do away with the punitive charges.
Helb is just but one of the clearance certificates required from a job seeker who wishes to enter into public service. Other requirements provided in Chapter VI of the Constitution include clearance from Kenya Revenue Authority, the Credit Reference Bureau and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.
The noble motive behind these requirements is to ensure those who occupy public office are men and women of integrity who inspire public confidence.
However, one needs to part with at least Sh4,700 to obtain these certificates, whether or not you have a debt, a criminal record, a corrupt past or are a tax evader. Indirectly, the cost of logistics involved in terms of transport and other expenses is a nightmare to those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
For instance, those in far-flung areas of Northern and rural Kenya bear the highest cost having to travel many kilometers to the nearest towns and at times, this process may not be done in a day.
The public outcry, including through petitions to parliamentarians, led to the introduction of several bills in Parliament seeking to address this problem.
A key legislative proposal is by Nominated MP Gideon Keter, representing the youth, which seeks an amendment to Section 9 of the Employment Act.
The Employment Amendment Act (2019) Bill proposes that in respect to recruitment, an employer shall not require an employee for a contract of service to submit any clearance certificates for which payment is required unless the employer intends to enter into a written contract with the employee.
In this regard, an applicant will be required to submit the mandatory requirements as a condition for the confirmation of employment. The Bill, if assented by the President, will guarantee young people equal access to employment opportunities since the clearance certificates will not be part of the interview process.
Besides the punitive clearance fees, Helb has been at the centre of controversy for the penalties it has been charging beneficiaries, the majority of whom have not secured employment upon the lapsing of the one-year grace period.
For instance, PK, a beneficiary, has been penalised to the tune of Sh195, 000 for the Sh160, 000 principal amount he received, exclusive of interest. PK is obviously not alone.
These penalties have led to many young people being locked out of loan facilities since they have been blacklisted as defaulters by the Credit Reference Bureau. Young people end up being trapped in the cycle of poverty.
It is the principle of any government to ensure equal access to opportunities for all. Unfortunately, in this case, the clearance certifications negate this very principle. Demanding clearance certificates has an unintended consequence. Whereas it was supposed to ensure we get honourable men and women to serve this country, it has ended up locking out the majority of young people — from poor families — from getting jobs.
Youths urge the National Assembly under the leadership of Speaker Justin Muturi to classify the Bill as urgent and fast-track the process involved for it to be brought before President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The 12th Parliament has an opportunity to stand for the youth by ensuring it creates a level ground for them by enacting the right laws.
Political parties should set aside their differences and ensure we have the policy to protect its citizens. As a result of this realisation, it is imperative that all stakeholders, including the party leaders, MPs, the Speaker, the Ministry of Youth and Gender Affairs and the President treat this matter with the seriousness it deserves.
The adoption of the policy will make a huge difference for us, the youth.
Jeffrey K Kosgei is a social entrepreneur with a passion for youth, environment and education