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Registrar responsible for fictitious parties membership

COMMENTARY
By - | January 12th 2013

By Okiya Omtatah

 Following an outcry from many Kenyans that they were fraudulently listed as members of political parties, the Registrar of Political Parties is washing her hands in Pilate’s water, blaming political parties for the fraud.

Since last year, many Kenyans have been surprised, to discover that they were fraudulently registered as members of political parties. This week it was reported in sections of the Press that a voter who had died long before TNA was founded is listed as its member in Murang’a.

Section 7(2)(a) of the Political Parties Act, 2011, (PPA) requires a party to have recruited as members, not less than one thousand registered voters from each of more than half of the counties before it qualifies for full registration. Section 7(2)(b) requires the Registrar to analyse the membership of political parties to ensure that parties recruit members who reflect regional and ethnic diversity, gender balance and representation of minorities. And Section 7(2) (e) of the PPA requires that before a party is granted full registration, it must demonstrate that members of its governing body meet the requirements of Chapter Six of the Constitution (on leadership and integrity) and the laws relating to ethics.

The Registrar is responsible for ensuring that political parties comply with the PPA. Unfortunately, the Registrar presided over a shambolic compliance process that cleared 51 political parties without verifying the data they submitted. Further, the Registrar never asked the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, which is charged with ensuring compliance with, and enforcement of, the provisions of Chapter Six (see Article 79, the Constitution), to vet those governing the political parties.

Whereas the Political Parties Registration Regulations provide for a Party Membership Verification Form to be filled in respect of each member of a political party (Form PP 5 PART III), the Registrar agreed with political parties, at a meeting they held on December 7, last year, at the Intercontinental Hotel, Nairobi, to substitute the legally sanctioned Form with a software package that was not approved by any legislation.

 Unlike the Form, which was designed to ensure that political parties recruited real members, the software allows political parties to simply upload unverified membership particulars into the official register.

In the matter of Ford-Asili & Others versus the Registrar, Appeal Number 3 of 2012, the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal ruled that the software was unlawful and therefore illegal, null and void as the same was not anchored in law or approved by any legislation. Given this ruling, if the law was indeed supreme, none of the 51 parties, which were registered using the condemned software, would be entitled to any benefits of the law, including fielding candidates and receiving public funding.

A computer expert I consulted about the illegal software informed me that for instance, other than blocking double registrations, the software has no inbuilt security features to prevent identity theft and to protect Kenyans from fraudulent enlisting. And since it cannot verify either the names or ID/passport/voters’ numbers, because it is not programmed to crosscheck against Government databases containing those particulars, the expert told me that there was no need for parties to steal particulars of Kenyans from Mpesa dealers and similar sources as one can feed the software with imaginary deatils of nonexistent people.

It was against the law to allow the parties to self-regulate. Ceding enforcement of the law to political parties delegitimised the entire compliance process and invalidated the clearance of the 51 political parties; since it created the loophole through which parties used forged and fictitious membership lists to purport to comply with the Act. This defrauded the public of their legitimate interest in political parties which are public entities funded by the taxpayer. Hence, the Registrar must enforce the law and stop blaming political parties for the mess. She has the duty and the powers required to keep a clean and accurate register, which contains only bona fide members of parties.

The writer is a human rights activist

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