The corrupt could spend life in jail under new proposals

Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro and Gideon Keter addressing the media. [Boniface Okendo/Standard]
People convicted of corruption could spend the rest of their lives in jail if a bill tabled in the National Assembly yesterday is approved. 

The Anti-corruption and Economic Crimes (Amendment) Bill, 2019 seeks stiffer penalties for graft from the current provision that sets a maximum penalty of ten years for economic crimes.

The new bill flips the current law on its head, proposing that ten years be the minimum penalty that courts can hand down on economic criminals.

Blank cheque

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The bill hands anti-corruption courts a blank cheque that could see persons convicted of corruption serve long jail terms, including life in prison.

The bill also grants courts a leeway to impose billions of shillings in fines.

While the current law imposes a maximum penalty of Sh1 million on offenders, the proposal before Parliament wants this amount set as minimum.

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“A person convicted of an offence under this part shall be liable to a fine not less than one million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not less than ten years or both,” states the new proposal fronted by Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro.

It comes at a time when the country’s law enforcement agencies have intensified the fight against graft, with the Director of Criminal investigations (DCI), George Kinoti, vowing last week to send ‘big fish’ to jail.

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The 2018 Transparency International corruption Index report ranks Kenya an number 144 out of 180 countries. It tied with Comoros, Guatemala, Mauritania and Nigeria.

The county was ranked as the fourth most corrupt country in Africa after South Sudan (13 per cent), Burundi (17 per cent) and Uganda (26 per cent). Should the bill become law, Kenya will follow in the footsteps of other countries that have developed harsh anti-corruption laws.

China, for example, has a law that makes the death penalty applicable to anyone found culpable of embezzling or accepting bribes of more than Sh46 million. Stealing money set aside for critical services such as famine relief could also lead to death by firing squad.

The bill states that tougher penalties will serve as a deterrent against corruption that has largely been blamed for the country’s stagnating development.

“The principal object of this bill is to amend the Anti-corruption and Economic Crimes Act to prescribe a minimum penalty to act as a deterrence mechanism for persons who engage in corrupt conduct as defined in the Act.”

“There has been a surge in corruption cases in the country and one way of dealing with corruption is enhancing the consequences of engaging in such activities… unless the menace of corruption is dealt with, corruption will continue to hamper the economic development of the county due to loss of public funds,” states the bill.

Weak laws

Nyoro told The Standard that weak laws have largely contributed to the upsurge in corruption cases in the country.

According to the MP, people steal money in the comfort that they can pay ‘friendly’ fines that will allow them get away with the loot.

“We have cases where people steal billions and they only pay fines of Sh1 million. That is not enough deterrent. In fact, our original intention was to make corruption a capital offence, punishable by death,” said Nyoro.

“However since we no longer hang people, the easiest was to get around the matter was to set a minimum penalty and give courts the leeway to send such people to prison for life,” he said.

The bill will now await debate by lawmakers.

“The corrupt are out there, and I urge fellow lawmakers to support the proposal,” he added.

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War against corruptionGraft SuspectsAnti-corruption and Economic CrimesJail termseconomic crimes