State and public officers convicted of corruption or economic crimes will be permanently barred from vying for political seats or holding public office if a Bill currently before Parliament becomes law.
The Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes (Amendment) Bill, currently at the debate stage in the National Assembly, seeks to address rampant corruption in public service that has largely gone unpunished.
The Bill by Moiben MP Silas Tiren targets managers, chief executives and directors of public institutions. It seeks to hold them personally liable for running down their institutions.
“A person who is convicted of an offence of corruption or economic crime and who was involved in the management of a public company, institution or state organ that suffered pecuniary loss as a result of the corruption or economic crime, shall be personally liable for such loss,” reads the Bill.
Further, it seeks to completely bar anyone convicted of an offence under the Act from holding office as a public or State officer.
Corruption under the law includes embezzlement of public funds for personal gain.
The proposal seeks to empower the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to publish the names of those disqualified from assuming public offices in the Kenya Gazette at least once a year.
However, it is not only the heads of State institutions who will be solely liable as it proposes to rope in those who aid in the running down of public institutions.
“A person who is personally liable is jointly and severally liable in respect of losses incurred by the public company, institution or state organ with any other person who is so liable,” it adds.
The provision of the law that the Bill seeks to amend provides that a person convicted of graft or an economic crime shall be disqualified from being elected or appointed as a public officer for 10 years after the conviction.
The law, however, makes it clear that this provision shall not apply for those in elective seats if the Constitution sets out the qualifications for the office.
Presidential, MPs, governorship and MCAs are elective seats whose qualifications are in the Constitution.
The holders of those offices are therefore not subject to the application of this Act. This will, however, change if parliament approves the Bill and the President signs it into law.
The PAC report recommended that individual accounting officers and other public officers directly and personally liable for any loss of public funds under their watch take responsibility for their actions of omission or commission.
Currently, public officers who occasion or oversee the loss of public funds are precluded from taking individual responsibility as they pass on the baton to their successors under the doctrine of collective responsibility.
Its passage will be a relief to the EACC, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in fighting rampant corruption within the public service.
Currently, a majority of individuals who have been accused of running down government institutions have a free will to secure refuge by vying for political seats to protect their ill acquired wealth.
Interestingly, some of those accused of looting public coffers have essentially been entrusted with the responsibility of managing public funds while others with the oversight role of the same resources at the national and county level.
Reports from the Office of the Auditor-General show that the government continues to lose hundreds of billions of shillings annually in corruption deals involving government officers entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding the limited resources.
At the national government level, to the 47 county governments, constitutional commissions and the parastatals, the audited reports reveal massive misuse of public resources.