Kenyans must resist attempts to water down Conflict of Interest Bill

Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina has proposed amendments to the Conflict of Interest Bill. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The Senate has proposed amendments to the Conflict of Interest Bill 2023. The amendments will allow State officials to do business with the government and at the same time, shield individuals and their families from taxpayer accountability.

In addition, the provision that gives the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) mandate to implement the Conflict of Interest Act has been deleted, rendering the agency powerless in dealing with those accused of Conflict of Interest.

These are far-reaching proposals that make nonsense of a very noble initiative. A Conflict of Interest law of that nature would make a mockery of the war against corruption and all the efforts and legal frameworks put in place to safeguard public interest.

Over the years, there have been complaints about politicians influencing award of tenders to their friends and relatives. Allegations have been also made that some elected leaders, who are State officers, go as far as registering companies in fictitious names just to secure lucrative government tenders. In Kenya, most people get into politics for the array of opportunities it offers them. Politics has become the stepping stone into the gravy train.

It is best left to imagination what would happen if such politicians were given carte blanche to do business with the government. First, the motivation would be to feather their own nests without regard to anything else or the need to look over their shoulders.

Secondly, it would disadvantage private businesses and ordinary members of the public who would want to do business with government institutions. With public officials free to do business with the government, corruption would, without doubt, get a more fertile ground to thrive. 

Politicians must be kept off any business dealings with the government as one way of dealing with rampant corruption that has held our country back for decades. They must choose between serving the government and doing business with the government. They must not engage in both.

Besides, seeking to remove the EACC from the war against corruption is dishonest and another pointer to mischief. Why would the Senate want to shield anyone suspected of engaging in malpractices relating conflict of interest from the EACC?

The provision on declaration of wealth within 30 days upon assumption of office and every two years thereafter, including by the President and his deputy, also serves a very good purpose; to ensure that public officials do not steal public funds to enrich themselves.

It also boggles the mind that the Senate would seek to shield individuals and their families from taxpayer accountability, especially at this time when the Kenya Kwanza government is coming up with all manner of taxes in a bid to shore up revenue.

Whatever the motivation of the Senate is in proposing these amendments, the people must say no to what seems like an effort to undermine the war against corruption and accountability. A Conflict of Interest Act that allows State officers to do business with the government is not worth it.