Experts want law streamlined

September 24, 2009
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, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 24 – Experts are now calling for greater clarity in the State Corporations Act as one way of enhancing the autonomy of parastatals.

Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) Executive Director Dr Moses Ikiara says such precision would help to clearly define the different roles of players such as the Board of Directors, Managing Director and the parent ministry of a corporation and thus eradicate political interference in such institutions.

“Of course these issues are in the Acs and in the statutes of various parastatals but some of them leave a lot of ambiguity and it gives politicians and other people the grounds to interpret the law differently,” Dr Ikiara told Capital Business.

His remarks came just a few days after the immediate former Managing Director of the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) Dr Kioko Mang’eli was sacked and replaced with one of his directors in a move that he claimed was politically motivated.

Dr Mange’li’s dismissal was effected just three months after KEBS parent Ministry of Industrialization renewed his contract in what Permanent Secretary Prof John Lonyangapuo termed as a ‘normal’ process in government.

“People are smart and they want to twist the law for their own benefit. As we set the laws, we need to be almost auto logical. We need to maybe even set formulae of how to appoint people because if you are that specific, it leaves little room for discretion and interpretation,” the KIPPRA boss says.

The relationship between parastatals and the Finance Ministry, the Office of the President and that of the Prime Minister should also be redefined so that people can know what between the circulars that are sent from ministries and the Act itself is superior and also who the players of the parastatals are answerable to.

The strengthening of the Boards of Directors in these institutions would also go along way in keeping at bay political interference. An assertive and professional board would be able to stand by their decision regardless of whether there’s pressure and where it’s coming from he adds.

“If a director is appointed to a board based on his qualifications, then he or she would not feel beholden to the person who appointed them and they can demonstrate the autonomy that goes with their office,” Dr Ikiara argues.

This argument is supported by corporate governance experts’ views that a good board should not be intimidated and that the survival of their company and its prosperity should come first.

The country also needs to institutionalize performance evaluation of say the parastatals chiefs in an exercise that should preferably be conducted by independent and professional agencies.

In Dr Mangeli’s case for example the KEBS Board is said to have evaluated his performance and he scored highly only for the government to turn around and say that didn’t count.

However, Dr Ikiara says the controversy surrounding the sacking of Dr Mangeli and the reappointment of Aaron Ringera as the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission Director General should not be construed to mean that things are suddenly become worse than before.

Such matters are highlighted because of the independence of media and the reflection of the greater democratic space that exists in the country today.

The fact that Members of Parliament (MPs) are the final word when it comes to effecting these changes poses a challenge because most of them have vested interests, he says.

But Dr Ikiara says Kenyans have a chance to change all this during the ongoing constitutional review. During this process, they can for example propose reviews that can strengthen the separation of powers of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary so that none of these arms of government can usurp the powers of the other.

The media and the civil society should also work together and ensure that the legislators toe the line and do not hold the country at ransom by refusing to pass laws that are beneficial to all Kenyans.

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