Kenya: Unity Test as Parliament Reconvenes

13 February 2020

The National Assembly and Senate reconvene Thursday afternoon after a two-month recess to start the Fourth Session of the 12th Parliament with a full in-tray that looks set to test the unity of MPs.

Both Houses are expected to tackle key business, among this the twin issues of enacting the Conflict of Interest Bill and the constitutional change bid via the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

First on cards, however, is the vetting of President Uhuru Kenyatta's two new Cabinet nominees and six principal secretaries.

Speaker Justin Muturi, at a special sitting on Monday, formally notified the House of the nomination of former Nyeri senator Mutahi Kagwe as the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Principal Secretary (PS) Betty Maina who was promoted to head the Trade and Industrialisation docket.

The House will also vet Mr Johnson Weru for appointment as Trade PS, Dr Jwan Ouma (Vocational and Technical Training), Ms Mary Kimonye (Public Service), Mr Simon Nabukwesi (University Education and Research), Mr Solomon Kitungu (Transport) and Mr Enock Momanyi Onyango (Physical Planning).

The National Assembly is expected to receive and debate the Conflict of Interest Bill after President Kenyatta late last year directed Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki to prepare it urgently. The Bill is set to guide the conduct of business for all State and Public officers including MPs.

Mr Kenyatta's proposal triggered mixed feelings with a number of MPs rejecting his position while others threw their weight behind the Bill.

The Conflict of Interest Bill 2019 has already been published by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC).

Among other things, the Bill seeks to prohibit public officials from using their offices to trade with the government, hence clinching lucrative tenders.

The proposed law contains punitive measures for public officials who submit false information or fail to provide their wealth declaration forms. Those who fail to declare a conflict of interest face a fine of up to Sh5 million or a three-year imprisonment term.

The BBI report, like the Conflict of Interest Bill 2019, has also recommended that State and public officers be barred from conducting business with the State.

The BBI also proposed that wealth declaration forms submitted by State and public officials be open to public scrutiny.

Wealth declaration is anchored in the Constitution as a tool in the fight against corruption. The Public Officer Ethics Act requires all State officers to submit their declaration forms once every two years.

Section 26 of the Act requires the officers to submit their declarations together with those of their spouses and dependent children under the age of 18 years.

The full financial disclosure is a means to allow the EACC to detect and prevent corruption when top public servants are serving in office.

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