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Keep off harambees or be ready to go to jail, governors told

NAIROBI
By Job Weru and Boniface Gikandi | October 9th 2014
Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero and Kamacharia MCA Joseph Machiri at a fundraiser in Murang’a earlier this year. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission has told county leaders to stop participating in such events.

NAIROBI, KENYA: The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) has sent jitters down the spines of governors and MCAs who take part in harambees.

The commission has threatened to prosecute those who engage in fundraisers, saying they are breaching the Leadership and Integrity Act 2012 and the Public Officer Ethics Act 2003.

EACC’s threat was conveyed in a circular to all governors and MCAs dated September 24 this year written by Chief Executive Officer, Halakhe Waqo.

The circular to the governors warned that it will take appropriate action against leaders who violate provisions of the Public Officer Ethics Act, 2003.

“The commission has observed with a lot of concern that some governors and MCAs continuously engage in public collections in blatant disregard of legal provisions governing public collections and harambees,” the circular read in part.

MIXED REACTIONS

It continued: “Whereas the commission appreciates the gesture directed toward supporting worthy causes, the activities of such members is in violation of the Leadership and Integrity Act, 2012 and the Public Officer Ethics Act, 2003.”

According to Section 18(1) of the Leadership and Integrity Act, State officers are banned from soliciting contributions from the public for a public purpose; “unless the President has, by notice in the Gazette declared a national disaster and allowed a public collection for the purpose of the national disaster in accordance with the law”.

This EACC directive has drawn mixed reactions from county leaders.

Whereas some leaders in the Mt Kenya region support it, others said enforcing the Public Officer Act would prejudice their position as community members.

Speaking to The Standard, Kirimukuyu Ward Rep James Kibira said this law should instead be scrapped since it will bar leaders from helping their community.

UNAFRICAN CONDUCT

Kibira said the Act is discriminative, since it only targets politicians, while other leaders are left to ride on the ‘blankness’ of the law.

“We conduct harambees for people suffering from diseases, churches, schools and poor students in need of school fees. Where do you think the needy will get help from if you clamp us down?” he asked.

The MCA said the law further segregates elected leaders from other sections of the community and essentially turns them into outcasts.

“We have our position as members of the community and if we cannot associate and co-operate with those in need, we will also be left alone when we have problems that need community participation. This is unAfrican,” Kibira said.

Early this week, Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero said the Government should allow public officers to participate in such events, so as to spur development.

Dr Kidero said fundraisers have improved the lives of many less fortunate Kenyans and funded various development projects which have been of benefit to the public. “Not all people are equal in life and we should let those who are willing to help others do so and those who do not want should just leave,” Kidero said.

CIVIC EDUCATION

However, Michael Kinyua, the Thingithu Ward Representative in Laikipia, lauded the move, saying lack of civic education and public awareness of the law has caused residents to jam elected leaders’ diaries with invitations to harambees.

Kinyua said these fundraisers and public collections should be banned and residents sensitised on the repercussions their leaders face when they participate in such events.

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