, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 4 – The Cabinet on Thursday approved the Witness Protection Bill which calls for the formation of an autonomous agency for the protection of prosecution witnesses in major offences.
The Bill proposes radical changes to the current Witness Protection Act passed in 2006. It seeks to dissolve the Witness Protection Unit and replace it with the independent Witness Protection Agency.
According to the Presidential Press Service, the Bill was formulated based on best practices in other countries and once in place, Kenya will be the third country in Africa to have such an agency.
The Bill also comes at a time when there has been pressure both from Kenya and internationally to establish a water-tight law that makes it possible for witnesses to give information without fear of reprisals.
International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo last month wrote to the government expressing his concern about the threats.
Civil society groups in the country have also raised concerns over the safety of prospective witnesses claiming that some powerful individuals have been threatening victims and people they perceive as witnesses.
Apart from the Witness Protection Bill, the Cabinet in its first meeting of 2010 also endorsed the National Construction Authority Bill 2009 which recommends the establishment of a National Construction Authority.
Meanwhile, President Kibaki summoned all Permanent Secretaries, chief executives of parastatals and Provincial Commissioners for a meeting on Friday to review the fight against corruption.
The PPS said the meeting was aimed at “giving new impetus in the fight against corruption.”
“On Jamhuri Day last year, President Kibaki instructed Permanent Secretaries to take action against public officers found to be engaging in corruption in the public service,” the PPS stated.
The meeting will focus on the steps being taken to streamline Government procurement systems that are especially prone to corruption.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga will also attend the meeting.