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Rogue lawyers, greedy telcos in MPs’ last agenda

By Alphonce Shiundu | January 28th 2017
These legal amendments are contained in the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) Bill – usually called the Omnibus Bill as it carries with it changes to dozens of laws.PHOTO: COURTESY

New proposals to tame rogue lawyers, greedy mobile phone companies and to regulate insurance offered by banks has been moved up the .

These legal amendments are contained in the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) Bill – usually called the Omnibus Bill as it carries with it changes to dozens of laws.

In the same package is a series of changes to the laws meant to streamline the Judiciary succession, especially when the Chief Justice (CJ) retires, and prescribing the hitherto unavailable retirement package for the CJ.

Amendments to the National Police Service Act to give the Director of Criminal Investigations  the status of Deputy Inspector General, and to give the President powers to appoint a “suitably qualified police officer” as Deputy Inspector General in acting capacity should there be a vacancy are also contained in the Omnibus Bill.

The first proposal is to amend the Advocates Act to ensure quacks and blacklisted lawyers have no loophole to practise. In the changes, all lawyers in Kenya will be required to get a practice number from the Law Society of Kenya (LSK). They will have to “affix” this number on all their legal paperwork.

“An advocate who holds a current practising certificate shall not file legal documents in any registry under any law requiring filing by an advocate, unless there is a fixed on each such document the stamp, admission number, practice number and signature of the advocate,” reads the proposal.

Should they fail to do so, the documents will be invalid and LSK shall punish them for “professional misconduct”. The requirement affects all documents, including pleadings, affidavits, depositions, applications and deeds.

Commercial banks that offer insurance, which have had a legal room to stay outside the jurisdiction of the Insurance Regulatory Authority (IRA), will also have to face the stringent regulatory regime, including the rules on capital requirements and disclosures. That change will be made to the Insurance Act.

The good news for mobile phone users from the MPs’ legislative plan is that service providers will have to give full disclosure on the premium rate services – those text messages from dating, betting, lottery or information sites that gobble up airtime. This amendment seeks to cure the mischief through which premium rate service providers add telephone numbers to their service to make money off subscribers without the subscribers even knowing that they are being conned.

“A telecommunication operator shall, before levying or allowing to be levied any specific charge relating to a premium rate services provided to a subscriber, disclose the fact, amount and frequency of the charge to the subscriber,” reads the amendment to the Kenya Information and Communications Act.

Safaricom, Kenya’s leading mobile service provider, has on its roster 14 companies that offer premium rate services in Kenya, while Airtel, the second mobile service provider has 25 companies.

These companies lease special short codes for text messages from the mobile phone service providers which they then use to make money by charging the SMS at a cost higher than what the mobile service providers charge.
Failure to disclose these charges will be considered an offence, and the offending operator will be slapped with at least three years in jail, or a maximum fine of Sh300,000 or both.

The amendment to the Judicial Service Act seeks to cure the drama that was witnessed at the Supreme Court as judges jostled to succeed former CJ Willy Mutunga, by making it clear that if the CJ and his or her deputy leave office at the same time, then “the senior most judge in the Supreme Court shall act as the Chief Justice”.

The amendment proposes that the judge, while acting as the CJ, “shall assume the administrative duties of the Chief Justice until the position of the Chief Justice or Deputy Chief Justice is filled”.
There is also an amendment to the Retirement Benefits (Deputy President and Designated State Officers) Act to include the retirement perks for a CJ.

The lifetime perks for a retired CJ shall include “a monthly pension of 80 per cent their last salary while in office” and a lumpsum payment of a year’s pay.

The retired CJ will also get a saloon car with maximum engine capacity of 2000cc that will be replaced every four years, one four-wheel drive vehicle with an engine capacity of 3000cc and a fuel allowance that is 15 per cent the current pay of the CJ. The vehicles will be maintained by the State.

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