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Why we should push for disclosure of leaders’ wealth

By Ken Opalo | September 4th 2021

On Wednesday, Interior CS Fred Matiang’i effectively made public what must be in Deputy President William Ruto’s wealth declaration forms. While incidental to Parliament’s hearing on the DP’s security, the disclosure is welcome.

The fact that the sky did not fall after the revelation should inspire us to make all government officials’ wealth declarations and remuneration public. Anyone choosing to work for the government should be willing to share with the public what they own, how they acquired it and how much they are paid.

Making this information public would certainly not magically solve our governance problems. But it would be a first step in demystifying the public service in the eyes of wananchi. It may also give teeth to social sanctions.

Once information on public servants’ wealth and pay is easily accessible, it will make it easier for individuals (including family members and friends) to call out officials living beyond their means. It may also just ease the “social tax” that public servants must pay to their families once it is clear how much they really earn or what they own.

Back to the Deputy President, the mild embarrassment he may have experienced on having his assets exposed in Parliament should inspire him and his allies to call for a universal disclosure of assets of all politicians and civil servants currently in office. From the President to their local Member of County Assembly to all civil servants, Kenyans need to know the financial backgrounds of those in public life.

Even if nothing comes of it in terms of accountability for graft or other offences, the disclosures should happen on principle. It might also be good politics within the “Hustler Nation.”

Finally, Wednesday’s hearing is what happens when political institutions do their job. Parliament held a hearing during which different sides posed questions to the CS and his team.

The CS showed up prepared. And in the process “inadvertently” revealed information of public interest. Serve us more of this please!

Assistant Professor at Georgetown University 

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