Kenya faces corruption as one of its major challenges and slaying it has proved elusive with un-ending court cases. Protection of whistleblowers becomes a sure way of nailing corruption cartels but also calls for their safety from the corruption king-pins.
For corruption to be eradicated, deliberate attempts should be made to protect whistleblowers willing to expose mega corruption scandals.
This is because of the serious threats and dreadful consequences emanating from the perpetrators.
Fear of whistleblowing has resulted to many corruption scandals going unreported, leading to plundering of public resources.
In the past, whistleblowers who exposed malpractices lived under fear while some were allegedly killed.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Noordin Haji, and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations headed by George Kinoti need to be commended for their resolve to charge graft suspects in court. However, concrete evidence to sustain convictions is what remains to be seen.
Whistleblowers can come in handy in unravelling the complex web of corruption networks.
Although the Witness Protection Agency is available to provide protection to whistleblowers who agree to waive their anonymity and testify in court, protection of whistleblowers will further require an enabling legal framework. This is currently lacking.
The Kenya Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act provides protection on assistants, informers, witnesses and investigators but does not specify on whistle blowers.
Section 41 of the Public Officer and Ethics Act seems to discourage whistleblowing as it states that ‘A person who, without lawful excuse, divulges information acquired in the course of acting under the Act is guilty of an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding five million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to both.
The Witness Protection Act on the other hand is only limited to providing protection to witnesses willing to testify in court but is silent on protection of whistleblowers.
Interestingly, the Access to Information Act, 2016 gives effect to the right of access to information by citizens as provided for under Article 35 of the Constitution.
The Act also provides for the protection of persons who disclose information of public interest in good faith such as whistleblowers and allows the public to seek for any information from the government.
The fight against corruption should therefore focus more on safeguarding whistle blowers against retaliation, intimidation, harassment and even death.
It’s important to fast-track the Whistleblower Protection Bill and review existing legislation such as the Witness Protection Act and the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act to provide for comprehensive protection of whistle blowers.
Calvine Paul Oredi, principal PR officer, Witness Protection Agency.