(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Government tables new anti-corruption bill

The Kenyan government recently introduced a bill in parliament to establish a new independent body to fight corruption in the country. However, the new body - the Kenya Corruption Control Authority (KCCA) - would need sufficient powers vested in it not only to investigate but also to prosecute offenders if it is to be effective, according to a government policy analyst.

Local media reported on 4 April that the attorney-general had tabled the bill seeking to establish the KCCA, which, if created, would assume the functions of the defunct Kenya Anti-Corruption Authority (KACA) as well as the recently established Kenya Anti-Corruption Police Units.

Jeremiah Owiti, who heads the governance and development programme of the Nairobi-based Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR), told IRIN on Tuesday that the new bill - dubbed the Corruption Control Bill 2002 - as it stands currently, gives the proposed anti-corruption body only investigative powers, while prosecutorial powers would continue to remain with the attorney-general, hence rendering it less effective for pursuing economic crimes.

"I want to believe that there will be a consensus in parliament to set up a constitutional office to tackle corruption. What could be a sticking point would be the prosecutorial powers of the body. Currently, all the prosecutorial powers are in the hands of the attorney-general," Owiti said.

This is the second time in under a year that a bill on corruption has been brought to parliament after rejection of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Bill on 14 August 2001, a constitutional amendment bill proposed by the government of President Daniel arap Moi which had sought to re-establish KACA.

Church groups, opposition MPs, and professional bodies dismissed the legislation as defective and unworkable, and strongly opposed a government proposal to allow an amnesty for economic crimes committed before December 1997. [for more details, see separate IRIN report of 15 August headlined "KENYA: Government defeated on anti-corruption measures"]

The original KACA was ruled unconstitutional by the Kenyan High Court in January 2001 on the grounds that it undermined the powers of the attorney-general and the police commissioner.

Owiti dismissed the new anti-corruption bill as "a public relations exercise" aimed at diverting growing local and international pressure on the government to act on graft. "Locally, the public, and even the parliament, have been vocal on pressing the government to act on graft, while internationally, the Bretton Woods institutions are making corruption a precondition for releasing any more cash for development and recurrent expenditure to the government," he said.

The tabling of the new bill follows the release in March by the attorney-general of a graft report published by British experts appointed by President Daniel arap Moi on 15 January to advise the government on possible anti-corruption measures.

Recommendations in the report had already been incorporated in the anti-corruption bill and the Public Officers Ethics Bill 2002, shortly to be tabled in parliament, KBC radio reported on 28 March.

Among other things, the team - from the UK-based Risk Advisory Group and Corporate Risk Services - proposed a strategic plan to fight corruption. It included the establishment of an independent commission with the necessary investigative powers, preventive public awareness programmes, and special anti-corruption courts with sufficient funding and staffing levels, the Daily Nation reported on 28 March, citing the report.

The report, however, disagreed with the World Bank and the IMF on the implementation of anti-corruption measures as a precondition for donor funding, and instead recommended that the Kenyan government seek the help of multilateral organisations and donor nations in rendering the new strategic plans for fighting corruption more effective, according to the paper.

The IMF suspended aid to Kenya in late 2000 because of the government’s failure to fulfil promises on tackling corruption and privatising the economy, which at the time was experiencing its worst recession since independence in 1963, and last year actually shrank by 0.3 percent.

According to Owiti, the British experts were hired to help generate credibility in the eyes of donors, and also as a "public relations exercise" for the local population, who he said, had grown "distrustful" of the government's intentions.

"Everything which these people have suggested is already in the public domain. The discourses have been taking place at every level," Owiti said. "There is sufficient expertise locally to advise the government on the issue of corruption. There is very little value added by this new report," he added.

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