MPs plot to water down election campaign law

Election materials at Griftu tallying centre, Wajir West. April 24, 2019. [Phillip Orwa, Standard]

In a race against time to implement the Campaign Financial Act, the National Assembly Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC) has put brakes on proposals by the Independent, Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) on the Elections Campaign Financing (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

The MPs, through a draft Bill, the Election Campaign Financing (Amendment) Bill 2021, sponsored by CIOC chair Ndaragua MP Jeremiah Kioni, seek to repeal nine sections and amend four, which include the proposed establishment of a committee with three members.

While the IEBC wants the identity of donors revealed, MPs want it kept confidential and only made public under a probe. 

“No campaign expenses shall be incurred by or on behalf of the political party unless it is incurred with the authority of the Treasury, deputy treasury or the person with the authority of either of the two. A person who without reasonable excuse to incur any expenses contrary to the law commits an offence,” reads IEBC's proposed Bill.

The law requires details on sources of the contributions, including donations in cash or in-kind, received and disclosure done at least 20 days before the nomination day and at least 20 days before the polling day.

A candidate or a political party that fails to disclose the funds or donations shall be disqualified and be liable to a fine not exceeding two million shillings or a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years or both.

Election materials at Bonchari CDF Hall. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

The move by the committee to amend the law seeks to counter the IEBC proposals.

"The objective of the Bill is to amend the Act, 2013 to align with its provisions with the Elections Act, 2011 and further propose amendments that will enable its implementation as the current provisions do not take cognizant of current socio-economic and political structures which have hindered the full implementation of the law,” reads the Bill.

In the parent law, the contributions or donations received by a candidate, political party or a referendum committee shall be accompanied by the specific details of the harambee including the venue, date and organiser, and a record of all individual contributions or donations collected.

“Contributions and donations given by a person or organisation under this section shall not, at any time, exceed the limit specified in the Gazette Notice published.

The committee shall not receive and keep anonymous contributions or support, whether in cash or in-kind, contributions from an illegal source.

“A candidate or party, political party or referendum committee that receives funds shall, within 14 days of the receipt, report such receipt and submit the contribution to the Commission,” reads the law.

Kioni Bill seeks to also define what monies intended for public use is as well as donations. On spending limit, the MPs want to abolish the cap on the maximum threshold of money a candidate, political party or referendum committee may spend during campaigns as proposed by the IEBC in 2016 when the implementation of the law was deferred.

A presidential candidate is allowed to spend a maximum of Sh5.2 billion, governors, senators and women representatives capped at Sh433 million while MPs are allowed a maximum of Sh33.4 million. For MCAs, the IEBC set the maximum at Sh10.3 million, with exception in some areas.

CIOC vice-chair Peter Kaluma said they proposed several amendments to the law to make it implementable.

“The law cannot be implemented in its current form. It’s just impossible for IEBC with its skeleton staffing to monitor compliance with the law across the country,” said Kaluma.

Election materials at Kakamega Hill School tallying centre. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Kaluma added, “It is also unreasonable to expect a candidate for a political seat to hand over his personal money to a committee of people to run for him as if it is public funds. Worse still, the law states that at the end of the campaign, money which remains is handed over to charity of the candidate’s choice."

MPs fault the law in its current form, which they claim mirrors the US one, stating that it’s a federal requirement for the presidential candidates, and not for local seats.

“The law applied to the US and other democracies where campaigns are funded from the public coffers and the candidate chooses. The Federal Elections Commission deals with in the US,” explained Kaluma.

IEBC boss Wafula Chebukati has faulted the MPs for delaying the passage of the proposed changes.