- The proposed law will demand the self-declared wealth declaration forms are made easily available to the public
- At present, public officers are expected to declare their wealth every two years, but the information contained in the wealth declaration forms remains confidential and can only be accessible by those in pursuit of public interest.
- This restriction will be eliminated if MPs adopt the proposed law that is before the Senate.
The wealth of top State officials — including the President and his deputy — will be made public under a proposed law that seeks to make Kenyans aware of public servants' riches.
The Lifestyle Audit Bill, 2019 is seeking to remove restrictions on Kenyans seeking to access information on income, assets and liabilities of persons holding public offices as part of efforts to fight corruption, which has become endemic in government.
The proposed law will demand the self-declared wealth declaration forms are made easily available to the public through a website or in an unrestricted database hosted by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC).
Of interest will be the wealth of the President and his entire Cabinet, MPs and Senators, top county officials, executives in State-owned firms and senior civil servants who have been captured in audit reports of collusion in the theft of billions of shillings of taxpayer money.
At present, public officers are expected to declare their wealth every two years, but the information contained in the wealth declaration forms remains confidential and can only be accessible by those in pursuit of public interest.
This restriction will be eliminated if MPs adopt the proposed law that is before the Senate.
“The contents of a declaration or clarification (on income, assets and liabilities) under this Act shall be accessible to the public,” reads the proposed clause of the bill which will replace the restrictive section if enacted by lawmakers.
The bill further proposes that wealth information on the public officers, their spouses and dependent children – which should be submitted in December of every second year to the line commissions – should also be filed with the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC).
This is likely to make EACC a one-stop shop for all information on the assets and liabilities of state and public officers.
The current law demands that public officers submit their wealth declaration forms to commissions in charge of their welfare such as the Teachers Service Commission, Public Service Commission and Parliamentary Service Commission.
EACC has no role in receiving the forms under the present law.
Analyst say that restricted public access to wealth declaration forms — which have been in place since 2003 — has done little to discourage public servants from engaging in graft and promote accountability and transparency.
“Studies show that public access to the declared wealth information has the effect of lowering corruption,” says Bernard Kiragu, Managing Partner at Scribes Services, a corporate governance consultancy firm.
“The war against corruption must be fought in the open, and this includes empowering citizens to interrogate the wealth of top officials. And those who not keen on their wealth being scrutinized should keep off public service.”