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Corruption war: Questions over secretive lifestyle audit

By Geoffrey Mosoku | Published Mon, August 6th 2018 at 00:00, Updated August 5th 2018 at 21:26 GMT +3
Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli and KNCHR vice chairperson George Morara.

The Government has been asked to make public findings of a lifestyle audit on more than 1,000 officers three weeks since the expiry of their 30-day compulsory leave.

Trade unions, human rights groups, lawyers and representatives of employers, said they backed the President's directive to vet how procurement and accounting officers of State agencies acquired their wealth, but added that the exercise should not be indefinite.

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They said the Government should make public what the exercise uncovered, including how many officials were cleared to resume duty, those whose explanations on the sources of their wealth were unsatisfactory and what action would be taken against the latter.

However, some raised questions about the opaqueness of the exercise and whether it was protected by law to shield it from being challenged in court.

The Public Service Commission and State House have not addressed the public over the findings, even as pressure has mounted on the Government to say what the fate of the procurement and head of accounting units sent home on June 4 is.

Inquiries ignored

Calls, text and email inquiries to State House spokesperson Kanze Dena, Chief of Staff Nzioka Waita, Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua and PSC on the subject went unanswered.

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State-owned agency, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) and workers' umbrella body, Central Organisation of Trade Union (Cotu), want the State to give an update on the exercise.

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK), Kenya Institute of Supplies Management (KISM) that brings together all procurement officers and Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) all said they supported the exercise as long as 'it’s done within the purview of the law’.

“The 30-day leave is over and the Government must now come out and tell the affected officers what awaits them.

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"Cotu is demanding that Government makes public information about the number of officers who have been vetted, those found unfit to work and how those who have been cleared are reinstated,” Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli said.

Mr Atwoli said the Government must also take to court those who do not explain the source of their wealth.

"We hope this exercise will not be used for witch-hunt. The exercise should have been done in an open and transparent manner so that even Kenyans can be afforded an opportunity to participate,” he added.

Process flawed

George Morara, the KNCHR vice chairperson, said although the intention of the exercise was noble, the process was flawed, thus raising questions on its legality.

“The intention is noble but the process is flawed. The exercise does not have a legal regime backing it, but rather using a presidential directive.

"Unlike the police vetting, judges and magistrates' vetting which was done openly, the exercise is being done in an opaque manner,” said Mr Morara.

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Yesterday, LSK said it had so far not heard of any complaint about rule of natural justice being violated in the ongoing audit, adding that the Government should be given an opportunity to complete the process.

“This is something totally new in the fight against graft. So far it appears everyone has been given an opportunity to explain themselves against the information they provided in the wealth declaration forms.

"Before we jump the gun, let’s see what the audit achieves,” LSK President Allen Gichuhi said.

The LSK boss said in the event that some State officers provided information contradicting what they had provided earlier, or are found to have unexplained wealth, then relevant legal sanctions could be applied.

“Criminal sanctions on those who lied in wealth declaration forms and the exercise will also provide a good reason to entrench honesty, integrity and transparency in accordance to Chapter Six of the constitution,” Mr Gichuhi said.

And KISM said the desired outcome of the audit was to have public officers of integrity, and that those performing the procurement function would be professionals who subscribe to the code of ethics and professional conduct for supplies practitioners.

Assurance on fairness

Chris Oanda, the KISM chairman, said his group hoped the assurance by Mr Kinyua that the exercise would be conducted in a fair and objective manner, with due care and regard to the officers' rights would remain.

“It is our expectation that this assurance is upheld and that there is no victimisation. Again, the circular from the office of the Head of Public Service issued a directive for the officers to proceed on compulsory leave for 30 working days,” said Mr Oanda.

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