Article 35 of the Constitution gives every Kenyan a right to access information held by the state.
While it does not explicitly specify which kind of information, it is obviously expected that whatever the government does on people’s behalf must not be secret.
On this basis, Kenyans want the government to make public the deal entered into by it to stabilise dollar process and fuel supply. At the time of its initiation, it was an exciting initiative with Kenyans looking forward to some relief; first on the dollar exchange but ultimately in the affordability of oil products.
If it had worked that way, Kenyans would have been less concerned about the details. However, what is playing out has been the opposite: high fuel prices and a falling shilling. In the absence of details, Kenyans can only judge the deal by its consequences. That is what has given ground to Azimio leader Raila Odinga to make his disturbing revelations.
The OMCs nominated in the deal have made a laudable attempt to respond to each of Raila’s allegations; quite convincing in a few of those allegations but failing to do the rightful and needful thing which is to release the MoU to the public.
The OMC’s statement reiterates what the CS for Energy told the National Dialogue Committee on the depreciation of the shilling, claiming it would have been worse were it not for the intervention. Can we be too sure on this?
All this can only be clear if the deal is made public. In the absence of it, Kenyans are likely to go with what Raila says.
Even with the OMCS’s explanation, a lot of questions abound. For instance, with the continued depreciation of the shilling, how does it affect the eventual settlement of debts within the agreed period of six months? For how long will the deal run and what amendments is the government able to make if it does not serve the purpose? The most important question is how can Kenyans through the mandated agencies monitor the undertaking so that a few cartels do not take advantage of it to benefit unduly? The answer is openness and transparency.
Kenyans do not want something similar to what happened with the Standard Gauge Railway deal. They got the SGR, but they do not know at what cost and implications. Even after promising to make it public, retired President Uhuru Kenyatta went home without a mention of it.
The Right to Access Information sits side by side with the rights to public participation article 118. In Article 118, Parliament as a representative of the people is mandated to facilitate the public be a part of the legislative agenda. Parliamentary committees access a lot of information that Kenyans seek.
Thus, MPs through those committees can also help Kenyans know what the government is doing on their behalf particularly on matters they have keen interest on.
The writer is anchor at Radio Maisha