, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 23 – The government says civil servants have a duty to participate in civic education on the proposed Constitution, contrary to assertions by the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) that it is against the law.
Government spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua said on Friday that there is no law prohibiting public servants from participating in civic education and termed IIEC chairman Issack Hassan\’s statement on Thursday as erroneous.
"The Constitution is a government policy document adopted and approved by the Cabinet and thereafter unanimously passed by Parliament. The role of public servants is to enlighten Kenyans on government policy decisions," he stated.
"The argument that civil servants should only be providing services and not educating people is null and void."
The government spokesman said that the Constitution making process should not be used as a means of gaining political mileage.
"The Constitution is not about political party competition or partisan interest. It is a matter of national interest. Civil servants are citizens of this country and their participation in civic education is for a document that is for the country and not any political party," he said.
Section 16 (1) of the Public Officer Ethics Act of 2003 states that a public officer shall not, in or in connection with the performance of his duties as such – (a) act as an agent for, or so as to further the interest of, a political party; or (b) indicate support for or opposition to any political party or candidate in an election.
More significantly, sub-section (2) states that a public officer shall not engage in political activity that may compromise or be seen to compromise the political neutrality of his office.
On Thursday, the electoral body faulted the government\’s move to use senior civil servants to campaign for the proposed constitution.
The IIEC chairman had said it is wrong for permanent secretaries and other senior government officials to participate in the campaigns.
A letter dated July 15 from the Head of the Public Service Francis Muthaura to Permanent Secretaries said in part: "Following the decision of the meeting of Permanent Secretaries which was approved by both his Excellency the President and the Rt. Hon, Prime Minister, you are authorized to travel to your respective regions between 12th July and 3rd August 2010 to participate in civic education and mobilising support for the new Constitution before the referendum."
The letter asked District Commissioners to invite at least 200 leaders to the PSs\’ meetings. "Permanent Secretaries may be accompanied by senior government officials and high ranking private professionals from their respective areas to strengthen presence."
Various Permanent Secretaries and parastatal chiefs have been crisscrossing their home areas campaigning for passage of the proposed Constitution. The PSs had also met Prime Minister Raila Odinga two weeks ago.
The No team led by Higher Education minister William Ruto and former President Moi have raised concerns over the use of the top civil servants in the campaigns saying it amounted to politicising the public service and encouraging tribalism.
The IIEC chairman cautioned that the use of civil servants in the campaigns could be used to challenge the referendum results in court after the polls.