Public officer integrity is one of the guiding principles of leadership under Chapter 6 of the Kenyan Constitution. Selfless service based solely on the public interest is key to good leadership. It is therefore quite baffling that one of our elected representatives to the National Assembly has proposed an amendment Bill to repeal section 64 of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act (ACECA) of 2003, which partly states:

A person who is convicted of corruption or economic crime shall be disqualified from being elected or appointed as a public officer for ten years after the conviction.”

As reported by Chemutai Goin, the lawmaker “argues that a convicted person will have already served the punishment and the 10-year ban was unfair.”

Visual summary of chapter 6 of the Constitution on leadership and integrity.

Why is the proposed Bill problematic?

To answer that question, we need to consider why that specific law was enacted in the first place. The purpose of ACECA is to provide for the prevention, investigation and punishment of corruption, economic crime, and related offences and for matters incidental thereto and connected therewith.

Now, the proponent of the Bill argues that a ten-year ban would be unfair as the convicted person would have already served the punishment. At this point, I echo the words of Sheila Masinde, Executive Director of Transparency International Kenya:

“In essence, Chapter 6 was intended to ensure that people of questionable character remain far away from public office.”

Visual depiction of the negative impact of misappropriation of public funds.

Repealing section 64 would not only beat the purpose of the entire Act, but it would also mean entrusting our public resources with a person or persons who have proven themselves unworthy of that trust. You wouldn’t hire a known fraudster to manage your business, would you? Then why should we let a person who has been convicted of corruption represent us in the management of public resources – funded by our hard-earned tax money?

What can I do about it?

On the bright side, the Constitution grants us the opportunity to share our views on any proposed laws. This is the requirement for public participation under Article 118. To submit your views on this Bill, just go to Parliament’s website and submit a comment. Another way of submitting your thoughts on different proposed laws is through the Dokeza Platform by Mzalendo Trust, a parliamentary monitoring organization with a mission to promote the realization of open, inclusive, and accountable Parliaments across Kenya and Africa.

I’ll close with the words of Article 1 of the Constitution:

“All sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya and shall be exercised only in accordance with this Constitution.”

The Constitutional principle of sovereign power, the core of Kenyan democracy.