Salvage weakened Bill to fire up war on graft

What you need to know:

  • When it approved the Bill, the Cabinet was upbeat that it would enable a paradigm shift if enacted.
  • If the Conflict of Interest Bill, 2023 is passed, MPs will be able to easily bag government contracts.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) is alarmed about a vote in the Senate that could make its work even more difficult.

Senators have just watered down a key proposed legislation in what the agency strongly believes is a plot to grab State tenders.

It is the Conflict of Interest Bill, 2023, which the Senate passed with drastic amendments. It has thus watered down this proposed law to curb the plague that is conflict of interest.

Yet when it approved the Bill, the Cabinet was upbeat that it would enable a paradigm shift if enacted.

Instead of helping to boost the fight against the rampant public sector corruption, the Senate has decided to give MPs, governors, Cabinet and Principal secretaries, parastatal chiefs and other officials a sweet deal.

If passed, they will be able to easily bag government contracts.

Conflict of interest has been a problem since a commission of inquiry in the 1970s allowed civil servants to own and run private businesses so long as they were publicly declared.

Overnight millionaires

However, the mess persisted even after the government adopted a code of ethics for civil servants in 1979.

This new Bill was intended to curb corruption in public procurement where government officials influence the award of lucrative tenders to their own firms and those linked to their relatives and associates.

The senators quashed provisions that sought to prohibit these officials from seeking tenders in public entities.

They also deleted the requirement of regular declaration of wealth, including wives’ and children’s in order to curb unexplained accumulation of wealth. It was meant to discourage officials from doing business with the government and illegally amassing wealth.

Millionaires have been created overnight, especially in the counties, from people whose salaries cannot meet their lavish lifestyles. Some governors, MPs and Cabinet Secretaries have faced graft charges arising from multibillion-shilling tenders.

As a Bill passed by the Senate must be submitted to the National Assembly, the EACC has petitioned MPs to salvage it in the public interest. The EACC is quite right that this will adversely affect the anti-corruption war by eroding the gains made so far.