While the passing of the Access to Information Act 2016 was expected to, among other things increase transparency in manning public resources, public ignorance and a weak legal framework to promote whistleblowing in Kenya still stand in the way of achieving this.
The worst hit is the mining sector, where corruption risks are very high given the amounts, distribution arrangements (national government, county governments and community) and environmental impacts associated with the sector.
A number of players are involved in the sector and the government is doing a lot to promote exploitation of the sector as a way of increasing its contribution to national development with a lot of success.
Among the plans the government has following the passing of the Mining Act are to improve knowledge on the online licensing system, working on establishing a mining institute to train middle level technical staff for the mining industry, put up a gem cutting centre.
The 2010 Constitution provides sufficient guidance in the management of these resources as outlined in Part 2 of Chapter 5. The Constitution obligates the government to ensure sustainable exploitation, utilisation, and management of natural resources, while ensuring such resources are utilised for the benefit of Kenyans.
The Constitution also requires that Parliament enacts legislation ensuring that investments in natural resources and property, benefit local communities and their economies. There is also the elephant challenge of dealing with a myriad of governance issues to overcome the vexing problematic factors that are cited by investors when doing business in Kenya.
These are corruption, access to financing, adequate infrastructure, crime and theft, tax, inflation and inefficient government bureaucracy. We cannot therefore afford to slip into a comfort zone.
According to a report, ‘‘Corruption Risk Assessment in Mining Awards, 2017,’’ published by Transparency International Kenya, due to weak whistleblowing mechanisms, a number of cases of corruption in the sector go unreported due to lack of confidence in the authorities mandated to handle such cases.
Given that it’s a multi- million dollar sector with a lot of players including international investors, middlemen and communities involved, the continued lack of comprehensive complaints handling mechanisms in the country playing a big role in inhibiting people from reporting cases of corruption.
The findings further indicate that despite the existence of the Access to Information Act, there still exist gaps with regards to knowledge of the legal framework that governs the mining sector in Kenya and availability and accessibility of relevant public documents and/or records.
Mining companies should develop internal policies to promote transparency and engagement with communities based on best practices such as the Informed Free Prior Consent Standards while at the same time adopt integrity management initiatives within the organisation in line with legal frameworks available locally and at country of origin.