, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 16 – The Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs Ministry is in the process of amending the Public Officer Ethics Act to grant the public access to wealth declaration information of public officers.
Permanent Secretary Amina Mohammed told Capital News that the amendment would also apply stringent measures to ensure all public officers comply with the wealth declaration law.
“Our Ministry has held consultative meetings with all responsible Commissions, and other relevant stakeholders, and is in the process of preparing amendments to the Act as well as regulations to facilitate public access to the wealth declaration information,” she said.
She said the amendments will also be seeking to create a user friendly declaration form but with a provision that will ensure wealth information is comprehensively disclosed.
In 2003 the government under the Public Officer Ethics Act 2003 compelled public officers to declare their wealth as a means of fighting graft in public offices. Despite the directive, wealth declaration information still remains confidential hence denying the public the opportunity to scrutinise it.
But should the amendments be implemented, members of the public will access the information as Ms Mohammed explained.
To counter officers from giving false information about their wealth, the Ministry through its legal affairs department will ensure that all public officers within their jurisdiction make full and timely declarations and failing to do so will subject them to disciplinary action.
False or misleading declarations of wealth, will cost the public officers a fine of Sh1 million or imprisonment of one year,”A public officer who submits a false or misleading declaration (or clarification thereof) commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding Sh1, 000,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or both,” explained Ms Mohammed.
She warned that the December 31 deadline remained and was not exceptional to any public officer regardless their status in government.
She said through the help of the Kenya Police, Kenya Revenue Authority, and the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission legal proceedings will be applied where an officer will be found to have assets or income that they cannot adequately account for.
The Permanent Secretary said she expected all public officers to comply to avoid the heavy consequences of non-compliance.
While she appreciated that the highest compliance was among the disciplined forces compared to civilian organizations, she rated the compliance level between 75 percent and 100 percent since the law was introduced in 2003.
But she acknowledged meeting the 100 percent compliance will not be without challenges.
“However, in most cases, it may not be practically possible to enforce 100 percent compliance owing to cases of: sickness; foreign assignments, etc. We are working with the responsible Commissions with a view to addressing challenges that prevent them from attaining full compliance,” she asserted.
Public Officers include Members of Parliament, Ministers and Assistant Ministers, the President, the Prime Minister and all civil servants.