28 January 2013

Kenya: Lobbyists Furious Over Vetting of Candidates

Political parties in the country have been put on notice that if their list of nominees to parliament and the senate will be rejected if they do not ... ( Resource: Kenya Political Party Nominees May Be Rejected )

CIVIL society groups, constitutional commissions, losers in the recent party nominations and ordinary voters are waiting to challenge the candidates who will be cleared by Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

Several groups--the International Center for Policy and Conflict and the Law Society of Kenya-- have already notified the IEBC of their intentions to sue if the commission did not properly vet the integrity of all the candidates.

These groups as well as other organizations and individuals are waiting for the IEBC to finalize its vetting and publish the list of candidates before they take action.

They have withheld their suits in line with a ruling of High Court Judge David Majanja who early this month dismissed an integrity case brought against Othaya politician Mary Wambui by four voters.

The voters claimed she did not meet the academic qualifications and had some outstanding issues concerning her integrity.

Dismissing the case, Justice Majanja said the IEBC must first satisfy itself of the integrity standards of all candidates as per the law.

He said the application against Wambui was premature as she had not yet been cleared by IEBC as qualified to run for the Othaya parliamentary seat.

He also said that disputes on integrity or lack of it must be based on contraventions of the Leadership and Integrity Act: "It is clear that if any finding of contravention of Chapter Six must be made, it must be in accordance with law enacted for that purpose and that law includes the Leadership and Integrity Act, 2012."

In his letter to the IEBC, the ICPC executive director Ndung'u Wainaina reminded the commission to rigorously apply the law and disqualify those candidates who do not meet the rigors of Chapter Six.

ICPC has also filed a suit challenging the eligibility of deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP William Ruto to run for presidency. The case is ongoing.

The LSK chair Eric Mutua said the society had made it very clear where they stood on the issue of integrity of those running for political office.

Last week, the society published a book containing list of persons adversely mentioned in public reports whom the LSK deemed lacked integrity.

"We are waiting for the final list from IEBC to see how they have dealt with the matter. We will then agree on the way forward depending on how they have handled it," Mutua said then.

All candidates due for official nomination by the IEBC are required to submit a self declaration form which will help the IEBC when vetting them for integrity and leadership. If they are found wanting from their answers, the IEBC can disqualify them.

Among the questions candidates have to answer is whether or not they have in the past engaged in any form dishonesty in the conduct of public affairs; whether they have abused public office and whether they have misrepresented information to the public.

Other questions relate to misuse of public resources, falsification of official or personal records, debarment from professional organizations, denial of visa, conviction of a crime resulting in a prison term of at least six months, past dismissals on the basis of integrity basis or even being tried for being in breach of the Public Officer Ethics Act, 2003.

"We expect IEBC to bar all those persons who do not meet the criteria laid out in the Leadership and Integrity Act. We expect IEBC to thoroughly scrutinize the self-declaration forms and weed out characters found wanting," said Ndung'u.

Several members of the Ninth Parliament who are among those nominated for election by different parties were accused of falsifying their mileage claims by the defunct Kenya Anti Corruption Commission.

Several members of the Tenth parliament who are also seeking re-election or election for other posts have also been disbarred by their their professional bodies.

Among those nominated by the parties are individuals who have been denied visas by foreign countries while others are former spin doctors who may have misrepresented information to the public in the past.

Yesterday, IEBC Vice Lilian Mahiri-Zaja said the commission will scrutinize the self-declaration forms before clearing the candidates to run.

She reminded all aspirants that the forms are sworn under oath and that any misrepresentation could invite perjury proceedings.

"If the misrepresentation is gross the commission will have to make a decision on whether such a person will be on the ballot or not. This will be a collective decision of the commission," Mahiri said.

She said the commission will look at the forms once presented against their own checklist of constitutional requirements for candidates to public offices.

She said the commission was prepared to thoroughly vet all aspirants until "Parliament in its own wisdom reduced vetting to the self declaration form."

In his letter to the IEBC, Wainaina cited excerpts from the High Court ruling challenging the appointment of Mumo Matemu case as the chairman of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission. Mumo was found to have acted impropriety when worked at the Agricultural Finance Corporation.

In the ruling, the High Court said that vetting of candidates for appointment to public office or even elective posts should not mere take the candidates through the "procedural hoops".

The judges also said that for purposes of the integrity test, there was no requirement that the behavior, attribute or conduct in question has to rise to the threshold of criminality. In other words, a person need not have been convicted of a criminal offence to lack integrity.

Wainaina said judges' findings was the law as it had not been overturned by any higher court. Matemu's appeal on the judgment is still pending.

Yesterday, the chairman of the domestic electoral observation group, Ken Masime expressed concern that the IEBC may not have the capacity or the time to verify the answers aspiring candidates have given in their self declaration forms.

"The effect of this is that there will definitely be a lot of petitions with cunning opponents and rival parties dashing to court. I am sure many are already assembling cases and some of the candidates who have been cleared by their parties will fall," Masime said.

Masime blamed the current situation on the Tenth Parliament which diluted the Leadership and Integrity Bill for self-serving reasons.

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