, NAIROBI, Kenya Feb 3 – Opinion poll firm Smart Octopus Research Company on Friday sharply differed with fellow pollsters on giving a members’ association powers to set self-regulation standards.
Managing Director Samuel Thiari dismissed the Marketing and Social Research Association (MSRA) as an ‘amorphous body’ which cannot enforce regulations that will govern the release of surveys.
“MSRA is not a professional body in the sense of Law Society of Kenya or the professional body for doctors, dentists and pharmacists to purport to be regulating their members. I would compare them to the Matatu Owners Association,” he said.
Thiari emphasised that only a professional body can regulate the sector by developing a code of conduct and ethics which would serve as a scaffold to regulate the profession.
“It would be the height of absurdity, if the MOA were to say that they want to regulate themselves, (that) they don’t want traffic police on the road,” he said. “The question when a matatu is stopped by a police officer is not whether the owner is a member of the MOA but if the driver meets the requirements to drive. Similarly it would be out of order for us to say we want to self-regulate.”
Ten research firms working under the aegis of MSRA on Tuesday opposed a move by some Members of Parliament to introduce a legislation to regulate opinion polling.
The firms instead argued the association will regulate the industry. For example, the group agreed that its membership will not release findings of their surveys on elections one week before the polling day.
“We are also reading MSRA’s call on media houses to ignore opinion pollsters who are not accredited to them as a thinly veiled blackmail. In the business of opinion polling the public has the final say.”
Thiari said he supported an independent body backed by an Act of Parliament which will ensure players in the industry adhere to internationally set criteria for governing opinion polls.
“We have looked at the provisions of the Bill and have come up with the informed position that the requirements therein before one can publish opinion polls findings are indeed what is required of any research worth their name,” he said.
“To call for self-regulation by an association that is exclusivist amounts to what one would call peer protectionism.”
Ikolomani MP Boni Khalwale has tabled a Political Opinion Polling Regulation Bill 2011 in Parliament seeking its enactment.
He fully endorsed Khalwale’s proposed legislation and said it was long overdue.
Thiari said the debate on the matter of regulation of political opinion polls should be carried out in a sober and objective manner.
“In our view, such a body should be composed of people with rich background in research and representatives of the members of the industry. Any other mechanism aimed at locking out competition would amount to creation of research and opinion pollsters’ cartels,” he said.
The Bill requires any initial publisher of the results of an electoral opinion poll to provide sufficient information to the public including; the name of the sponsor of the opinion poll, the name of the person who conducted the opinion poll and the population sample from which the respondents were drawn.
Those who will violate provisions of the Bill will have committed an offence punishable by a fine not exceeding Sh500,000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year, or both.