By Koki Muli
The world praised the contents of our Constitution and the successful and inclusive constitution-making process and referendum through which it was adopted.
We clearly demonstrated our rejection of previous political and elite-driven constitution making and followed a people-driven legitimising process that guaranteed that our Constitution is indeed what Kenyans want.
The Constitution is lauded as one of the most progressive and people-centric in the world. It also provides for genuine democracy, inclusion, human rights, and justice. For the first time in the history of Kenya, we have a Constitution, which provides for national values and leadership integrity. It in fact defines what a leader with integrity cannot do or be and provides guidelines for Kenyans in their pursuit of professional leaders with integrity.
Therefore, it is with great pride and happiness that Kenyans witnessed the people-centred creation and establishment of most of the constitutional commissions and bodies. The very public and in some cases transparent and open recruitment processes of commissioners and constitutional office holders, requiring them to go through serious public vetting gave them legitimacy and credibility. Most important, it adhered to and followed the Constitution.
Applicants were required to seek and produce clearance from Kenya Revenue Authority, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, National Security Intelligence Service, Higher Education Loans Board, professional organisations such as the Law Society of Kenya, Institute of Certified Public Secretaries of Kenya and many others depending on the applicants’ profession. Applicants were also required to seek clearance from the national body dealing with loans and financial integrity of Kenyans.
After going through public interviews, the shortlisted names of applicants are then submitted to the President and the Prime Minister for selection and submission to Parliament for final vetting. Although in some cases the process has not always been without drama, it nevertheless adhered to the letter and spirit of the Constitution.
This is why all applicants without exception until now submitted themselves willingly to vetting and public scrutiny as required by the Constitution and especially by Chapter Six on leadership and integrity even before the Bill was presented to Cabinet and Parliament. The publication of the Leadership and Integrity Bill was a natural progression of the practice of vetting and clearing of those who seek to serve in the public and State services.
This is why, the requirements for vetting and clearance for those seeking elective and appointive positions and the establishment of criteria and thresholds for leadership and integrity was a natural inclusion in the Bill. This equalises all of us before the law ensuring the Constitution remains supreme and no category of people are below or above it. For the Constitution to be effectively implemented and to guarantee the rule of law, it must apply equally to all the citizens. There cannot be different thresholds for different categories of citizens.
If vetting and clearance is required of people seeking employment in the Judiciary and the Public Service, the same should be required of those seeking employment through the Parliamentary Service Commission and all elective and appointive positions.
Members of Parliament and County Assemblies will have serious public and financial responsibilities and perform such functions that require integrity. If candidates are not subjected to scrutiny just as other public and State officers, we may end up with leaders with questionable integrity and unfit to serve the public. This will kill Kenyans dream of using the Constitution to begin a clean slate of leadership and significantly undermine its implementation.
The writer is an elections and constitutional law expert and lecturer, South Eastern University College