by Tom Mboya
This article was originally posted here.
Chapter 6 on Leadership & Integrity is, in my view, one of the cornerstones of our new Constitution. Without it, the aspirations of the Kenyan people for effective and accountable leadership remain elusive. Chapter 6 seeks to define the parameters within which State Officers ought to carry out their duties. Essentially, this Chapter is intended to reign in those who have in the past operated with impunity, and those who use their respective public offices for personal or sectarian gain. Much has been discussed in the public domain about the effect of Chapter 6 on our current crop of leadership, and whether they meet the threshold for integrity as contemplated by the Constitution.
Chapter 6 alone, however, will not rid us of an avaricious and self-seeking political elite. Legislation is required to breathe life and inject substance into the Constitutional provisions. Perhaps one of the most important pieces of legislation to be debated to support the Constitution is the Leadership & Integrity Bill, which is set to be debated by Parliament shortly. The Bill will determine the kind of leadership we can expect to see contesting the next election, and those assuming public office thereafter. In its draft form, that legislation is fairly robust. For example Section 35 of the Bill bars anyone from seeking to be appointed or elected to a State office if, while serving as a State officer, that person contravened a code of leadership and integrity under the Act. Furthermore, the Bill sets high standards of integrity and professionalism which State officers are expected to comply with.
The Bill also requires each Commission to establish a specific Code of Ethics and Integrity for the State Officers for which it is responsible, thereby offering a guideline as to what constitutes acceptable conduct for State Officers.
Clearly, if passed in its current form, such a piece of legislation is likely to have far-reaching effects on the caliber of leaders eligible to seek elective office at the next elections; not to mention a career-debilitating effect on the current political elite, many of whom would not meet the threshold under such progressive legislation. The obvious hurdle to the passage of this legislation is Parliament itself, and whether those in a constant struggle to increase their salaries and emoluments are likely to debate and pass a law that would confine them to the annals of Kenya’s political history!
More recently, the thorny issue of the leadership of the Ethics & Anti-Corruption Commission has taken centre stage with three previously rejected nominees appointed as members (though the Chair has now been blocked by the High Court from assuming office). The same Parliament that months before found that the nominees “lacked passion” to fight corruption, recently made a complete turn-around and unanimously approved the nominees. What changed? Furthermore, in rejecting the nominee for the position of Chair, Mumo Matemu, the Parliamentary Committee on Justice & Legal Affairs expressed reservations as to his integrity in relation to conduct during his tenure as a Commissioner of the Kenya Revenue Authority.
If Mr. Matemu were to assume office, we would be faced with a situation where a person whose integrity has been called to question will steward they very body (EACC) charged with assessing the integrity and suitability of others, including candidates for elective office!
The Leadership & Integrity Bill & the issues surrounding the leadership at the EACC cannot be viewed in isolation: there appears to be a distinct link between the two and the ramifications of the two issues on the current political elite. One cannot help but feel a sense of apprehension for the fight against corruption and the quest for responsive and credible leadership in Kenya, which faces tremendous hurdles in the short-term.
While it would appear that MPs have once again showed their hand, the ultimate indication of the direction the current leadership wish to take on the critical issues of leadership and integrity will play out on the floor of the House, in the manner in which they address debate on the Leadership and Integrity Bill. As an issue that is so central, not only to the conduct of the next elections, but also to future generations and the caliber of their leadership, Kenyans would be well advised to watch VERY carefully how Parliament seeks to implement Chapter 6 of the Constitution, and specifically, how they deal with the Leadership and Integrity Bill.
What remains to be seen, then, is whether the spirit of the Constitution or political imperatives will carry the day. My prayer is for the former!