Drive out of central Nairobi along Kenyatta Avenue to where it turns into Valley Road at the junction with Milimani Road, near the Panafric Hotel, avoid the bumper of the car in front of you, dodge the guy who has decided to suddenly pull out left back on to the main carriageway, look up slightly to your right and you will see the Integrity Centre, the home of Kenya’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission. Officially it’s not a place you can just walk around but drop somebody Sh200 and they’ll let you in.
Fair enough, that probably displays more skepticism by the Kenya Forum than was warranted but Kenyans have so often experienced the sickening feeling as initial optimism is mugged by reality that a skeptical disposition is understandable and ingrained into us by an early age.
First the optimism.
The Leadership and Integrity Bill 2012 published last week is designed to be the legislative flesh on the skeleton of Chapter 6 of the Constitution which covers leadership and integrity. The Sunday Nation described it as containing ‘sweeping recommendations’ and declared that if passed in its current form, it could ‘effectively disqualify most of the top-tier presidential aspirants’ for the next election.
Clause 35 of the new Bill states that: ‘A person seeking to be appointed or elected as a state officer may not be eligible for appointment or to stand for election to such office if that person has, as a State officer, contravened the Leadership and Integrity Code under this Act or while serving as a public officer, has contravened a code of ethics and integrity applicable under this act.’
The Bill gives the power to determine who has ‘contravened’ to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to bar people from standing for elected or appointed office.
All well and good says the Kenya Forum. We all know that there are plenty of politicians, would-be politicians and public officers out there who should be barred from standing for office and dealing with that problem, i.e. getting rid of the bad apples, is a good idea.
The Nation quoted Ken Wafula from the G47 governing council, a new political group, welcoming the Bill. “These are individuals who have been adversely mentioned in various commission reports that raised issues on their integrity”, he said.
“ADVERSELY MENTIONED” WON’T DO
Let us now temper optimism with skepticism (or should that be ‘reality’?).
“Adversely mentioned”, as the Kenya Forum has noted before, will not do. “Adversely mentioned” has far too often been the phrase that has been used to get round the fact that there is not enough evidence to convict, and very often because there’s no evidence at all.
Basing the decision as to who gets banned on “various commission reports” will also not do: too many of them in the past were crooked or produced by political fronts for one politician, political grouping or another.
The Kenya Forum thinks the leadership and Integrity Bill 2012 provides a solid basis for a good Act that can help get rid of the bad guys but the decision as to who to ban must be based on fundamental principles of law and natural justice. ‘Convicted’ in a court of law and you can be out. “Adversely mentioned’ won’t do.