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Financial autonomy for police service mere red herring

Inspector General Hillary Mutyambai. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

On the face of it, President William Ruto’s directive that the Kenya Police Service be given financial autonomy was thoughtful, even desirable.

Hitherto, budgetary allocations for the Police Service were domiciled in the Office of the President, effectively denying the Inspector General of Police (IG) any say on its usage. 

Successive administrations have exerted undue control over the police service and used it to settle political scores and where need arose, to intimidate the citizenry. Complaints of police harassment by Dr Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua attest to this and, arguably, formed the basis on which the president’s decision to give the Police Service autonomy was premised. 

Already, the National Treasury has implemented the presidential fiat. However, a question arises: Does financial autonomy grant the Police Service operational autonomy? The reverse holds true.

Conveniently ignored was the little matter of security of tenure of the IG. As it stands, the IG serves at the mercy of the president in direct contravention of a constitutional provision. In retrospect, the clause on the security of tenure of the IG was maliciously removed through the Security Laws (Amendment) Bill 2014 (December) in an acrimonious debate that resulted in physical fights on the floor of the august House and a female Member of Parliament pouring water on the acting Speaker. 

In January 2015, the Statute Law (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2015 was crafted with the intention of giving the president power to sack the Deputy IG at will. Deputy IG Grace Kaindi had a taste of this when the president unilaterally retired her, a move she contested in court on the grounds that the Constitution protects her tenure and that she had not attained the mandatory retirement age.

Indeed, giving the police financial autonomy while the IG is beholden to the Executive is a facade that gives the Executive and Legislature extra leverage to toy with the police. An IG who must seek approval from 'whoever pays the piper' is deficient in operational autonomy. 

Nothing makes a more solid case for this than the tribulations of the Judiciary. Even with financial autonomy, the Executive, through a pliant Parliament, has for a long time deliberately starved the Judiciary of funds and severely limited its operations.

There is no guarantee the Police Service will fare any better unless, of course, the security of tenure of the IG is restored and the independence of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary practiced in both letter and spirit. 

There are indications that the 13th Parliament could turn out to be nothing more than the Executive’s rubber-stamp. The President is a hard task master, a stickler for order. Through a presidential decree, for instance, all Kenya Kwanza legislators will be run through basic etiquette lessons. That is a warning shot across the bow that everyone must stay in line.

-Mr Chagema is a sub-editor at The Standard