MPs at loggerheads over ‘mutilated’ Integrity Bill

August 22, 2012 2:41 pm
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During the debate on Wednesday morning, MPs accused the Executive of watering down the Bill and lowering the standards envisaged in Chapter Six of the Constitution/FILE

, NAIROBI, Kenya Aug 22 – Debate on the Leadership and Integrity Bill elicited mixed reactions as backbench MPs and members of the Executive argued over the deletion of key provisions on ethical criteria in the law.

During the debate on Wednesday morning, MPs accused the Executive of watering down the Bill and lowering the standards envisaged in Chapter Six of the Constitution.

“We must show that leadership is from a top-down not a bottom-top approach. When we create a Leadership and Integrity Act it is not about us but it is about the rest of the country; it’s about our children, our future generation and the discipline we wanted to see.”

Gichugu MP Martha Karua who supported the Bill said she plans to introduce amendments after she accused the Cabinet of removing certain clauses which prohibit public officers from getting involved in any other business for commercial gains.

“It is not in vain that the civil society, the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution and the public are unhappy with the way the Bill is,” Karua told Parliament.

“A court interpreting this law can also put a higher threshold. It is not about you and me, there are so many people focusing on those vying for seats. This is about Kenya. This law is supposed to help us tame corruption and impunity.”

Attorney Githu Muigai defended the Cabinet saying the Bill is akin to a first draft which could be developed progressively citing need to reconcile laws that could be duplicated in the Bill.

“It is not a perfect Bill. It is a consensus document. In matters that are deeply political like this issue, it is not possible to get a total and unreserved agreement on the document.”

“Doing the best we can, with the limited material that we have, I believe this Bill gives a good first step towards creating ethical standards in the country.”

Another presidential aspirant Peter Kenneth opposed the Bill saying its provisions were weak and that it needed to be strengthened as the only way to curb indiscipline.

“It is not an issue of whether someone is trying to be white or whiter or playing to the gallery. It is an issue of ensuring that we have integrity and discipline in all echelons of leadership in this country,” said Kenneth.

Karua and Kimunya clashed over the Cabinet’s decision to remove the provision requiring the public officers to declare their income, assets and liabilities. The Narc-K presidential aspirant said it was shame the Cabinet removed the provisions which were agreed upon with stakeholders include the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution.

“When members of the Executive removed the clause on declaration of wealth it was a sign of impunity,” he said.

But Kimunya interjected and told Karua that a similar provision already exists in the Public Officer Ethics Act 2003.

“The Public Ethics Officer Act was passed in 2003, the law we are making is superior to it pursuant to the constitution and Chapter Six,” said Karua in response.

She differed with the AG over the removal of a clause that prohibits State officers from participating in any other gainful employment. However the AG said there will be specific Bills of conduct for specific institutions.

“It is not in vain that the civil society, the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution and the public are unhappy with the way the Bill is,” Karua told Parliament.

Trade Minister Moses Wetang’ula backed the Bill, saying that the provisions were not unconstitutional, but were “just weak”.

“We’re not creating a leadership of saints; we’re creating a reasonable leadership that can respond to the needs of society.

He took issue with provisions in the Bill which deny a Kenyan a shot at a leadership post for merely having a visa application rejected or being charged with a minor traffic offence.

MPs Jakoyo Midiwo (Gem), Jeremiah Kioni (Ndaragwa) and Millie Odhiambo (Nominated MP) said that the need to enact an integrity law was indictment that the Kenyan society lacked values and urged the Ministry of Education to introduce a subject on ethics and constitutionality in primary schools.

MPs Najib Balala (Mvita) and Ephraim Maina (Mathira) said the provisions which the Commission for the Implementation on the Constitution were pushing for were not impracticable saying the country is not looking for angels or saints.

“It’s not going to be possible to create saints one morning, even in the Bible, they are very few. So let no one think we are going to legislate to come up with saints,” said Maina.

Lands Minister James Orengo who gave a response on behalf of the government said: “The Constitution and the laws that exist such as the Anti-Corruption and Ethics Act and Public Officers Ethics Act have put a very high threshold for integrity.”

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