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Mandatory lifestyle audit for public officials gets Senate nod

NATIONAL
By Josphat Thiong'o | October 27th 2021

Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) offices, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Public officials will soon undergo mandatory lifestyle audits after Senate approved the Lifestyle Audit Bill, 2021.

The Bill will be transmitted to the National assembly for concurrence and if approved will see government officers put under the microscope where they will be required to declare their source of wealth and make it public.

The proposed law sponsored by Deputy Majority Whip Senator Farhiya Ali (Nominated) seeks a legal framework for a lifestyle audit.

Once implemented, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) will be mandated to refer a matter to the Director Public Prosecutions (DPP), whereas as a result of the lifestyle audit, criminal proceedings can be instituted against the public officer.

The proposed law further allows a person, subject to the lifestyle audit to enter into a deferred prosecution agreement with the DPP.

During the debate of the Bill last week, Senate Majority leader Samuel Poghisio (West Pokot) said it would strengthen the EACC, Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and Office of the DPP in confronting corruption and other related economic crimes.

“We have laws such as the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act, the Public Officer Ethics Act, the Leadership and Integrity Act and the Public Service (Values and Principles) Act, which are all meant to do the same thing. We have many other laws. We are adding another Bill because we know where we have not covered as a nation,” stated Poghisio.

He lauded the clause in the Bill that states the immediate family members of a public officer will also be mandated to take lifestyle audits.

“If it is established that property which is subject of a lifestyle audit is owned by the immediate family member or joint ownership, then action must be taken,” he said.

Senate Majority leader Samuel Poghisio. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The Majority Leader raised concern that looting of public monies had been turned into a family affair.

“Let the people who have obtained monies corruptly feel the heat and know that there is a law that is going after them,” added Poghisio.

Minority Leader James Orengo who backed the Bill, noted that for the war against corruption to be won, there is need to have institutions of integrity and leadership.

He noted that despite the country having a plethora of laws to address corruption, there is lack of political goodwill.

“The Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act has very substantive provisions not only for dealing with somebody who has committed an offence but also against public officers or for that matter individuals who may be in possession of unexplained assets. There is a proper procedure that is laid out,” said Mr Orengo.

“Let us not give the law enforcement agencies opportunities to invade the privacy of people’s homes without a warrant. If it is a genuine lifestyle audit, there should not be a warrantless search,” he added.

He regretted that Kenyans had inculcated a culture where if a leader steals in their name, they become heroes.

“It has gone to the people that they condemn corruption but not necessarily the fruits of corruption,” he said.

Siaya Senator James Orengo. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula said although the Bill does not seek to introduce anything new, it will strengthen existing legal structures and institutions to enhance accountability.

“If you look at our country today, I dare say that a majority of rich people have worked for or are working in government. None of them can explain their wealth as being a source of their income for working with government,” said Mr Wetang'ula.

“It is all proceeds of corruption. People get into public offices not to work for the public, but themselves,” he added.

The senator said President Uhuru Kenyatta's revelation that Sh2 billion is lost every day to corruption, means in about 300 working days, Kenya was losing Sh600 billion to corruption.

“We also have on record the government saying one-third of our public budget is stolen, meaning that in a budget of Sh3 trillion, we lose Sh1 trillion to fraudsters and corrupt individuals,” he added. 

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