MP Opiyo Wandayi pushing law to block graft suspects from holding public office

NAIROBI, Kenya Sep 28 – Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi has rolled out a legislative process to lock out public officers facing corruption charges from either running or holding office.

The amendments by the lawmaker to the Leadership and Integrity Act ,2012 and the Election Act of 2011 are also aimed to cure the spectacle of state officers (elected or appointed) accused of graft from staying in office long after they have been charged with corruption.

Several Governors and lawmakers remain in office despite facing serious charges in court including murder, corruption among others in what is blamed on the country’s weak laws.

“The best way to stop corruption in the government is to stop corrupt people from getting into office either as elected leaders or appointed bureaucrats. And when some are detected to have somehow found their way to leadership and are suspected of trying to steal from the public, they must immediately be chucked out until it is proved that they are, indeed innocent,” Wandayi said.

Currently, the law provides that a person is innocent until proven guilty and with the country’s slow wheels of justice, most public officers suspected of corruption have held office despite facing charges in court.

The legislative process geared at closing the loopholes that have barred anti-graft bodies from prosecuting state officers accused of corruption or any other serious crime has been initiated.

The proposed amendments are expected to be presented to the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) in the National Assembly.

“The Speaker of the National Assembly has already cleared this proposed amendment and it will be going through the publication ritual. It is already in the budget office and then it will go to JLAC. I implore JLAC to kindly fast track it,” he said.

The proposed amendments on the Election Amendment Bill, 2011 and the Leadership and Integrity Act, 2012 seeks to embolden the enactment of Chapter Six of the Constitution which calls for integrity among public office holders.

“When Chapter Six  of the constitution was enacted, it was watered down such that it Is giving leaders leeway to circumvent the constitution. The Leadership and Integrity act itself was aimed to strengthen Chapter Six but now it seems even weaker. I want to cure that,” he noted.

If the proposed amendments will successfully go through the requisite stages and eventually sail through the National Assembly, then state officers who have formally taken plea for charges of corruption or other crimes related to corruption will temporarily be suspended from office.

“If you are an MP and you have been charged with graft you cease to perform the functions of your office as legislator until the time that the court will clear you. The argument would be what if you are acquitted long after your term has ended, so be it, there is room for recourse in the law!” Wandayi said.

The ODM lawmaker argues that amendment of the law which provides for suspension of elected officers will not, in any, way create vacancy or an avenue for a by-election.

“The MP will still have his or her role, even though he will be toothless. The law is basically telling the constituents that even though you elected an MP, he engaged in corruption related activities. For that reason you will to suffer a little,” Wandayi stated.

The amendments also seek to tighten the stipulated requirements for clearance to run for any public office by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Should lawmakers manage to pass these amendments, former and current governors accused of corruption will be forced to forgo their political ambitions.

Governors Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia), Moses Lenolkulal (Samburu),  Ali Korane (Garissa),Okoth Obado (Migori) and Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi) are facing corruption charges hence they might not be eligible to contest in 2022 if laws are amended.

Close to 20 MPs are currently facing charges which include misuse of Constituency Development Fund (CDF) cash, fraud, forgery and murder which are regarded as breach of the integrity laws.

Recently Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua was charged with a Sh27 million scandal and is out on bail.

In August 2018, Embakasi North MP James Gakuya was charged with the fraudulent acquisition of Sh39 million CDF funds.

In February 2018, Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter was also charged with forgery of Sh633 million Treasury bills.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) have always blamed weak laws for their slow pace in the fight against corruption.

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