Weekly Newsletter - Issue No 321
14th February - 20th March 2022


Information is the Power Citizens Need Ahead of the Polls

Information is fundamental in enabling informed decisions. As the popular saying goes, knowledge is power. Where information is not freely accessible, breach of ethics and unprofessionalism thrives, and basic rights might also not be realised. People can hide corrupt acts behind a veil of secrecy. Access to information allows for transparency, accountability and openness to thrive even as the country heads towards the August 9th general elections.

When our right to know is denied, we can’t hold decision-makers or institutions accountable for their actions. In the absence of information, citizens might not be able to fully realize their civic rights and duties.

We must agree that access to information ensures that individuals have the right and essential material needed to solve problems and make better decisions. It plays a significant role in enabling citizens to exercise their civic duty of closely following what happens within the government and through their representatives and appointees vetted and approved by their representatives. Is enough being done to ensure that public institutions avail information to Wanjiku?

The Access to Information (ATI) Act which was enacted on September 21, 2016 guarantees every Kenyan the right to seek access and obtain information from public bodies and private bodies acting in a public nature. However, the full realization of this Act is yet to be achieved owing to the fact that the country lacks regulations. These regulations would give clarity on issues to do with request processes, formats to provide information and remedies in the event there is non-compliance by government institutions. Will this prove to be a hindrance or easy scapegoat for institutions that may choose not to disclose information that is crucial during this electioneering period?

If citizens are to make informed choices at the ballot, don’t they reserve the right to know all decisions that were made on their behalf by either elective or appointive offices? Take for example, development projects that have been surrounded by controversy, the citizen has the right to know how they came to be, who approved them, who benefitted from them and whether public resources were mismanaged. A project of the SGR’s magnitude is one that should’ve been public information but to this date, Kenyans do not know what is contained in that contract.

The worry that money earned through illegal means could be at play during the elections is a valid one. Numerous scandals that have caused loss of public funds have been those whose details remain undisclosed. The Medical Equipment System (MES), the dam projects and Covid-19 funds all had an element of opaqueness in the tendering and contracting phases that led to taxpayers losing yet again billions of shillings. Lack of this information denies Kenyans the chance to make informed choices at the ballot and presents the risk of them unknowingly re-electing corrupt individuals.

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News of the Week

MPs reject IEBC proposals on voter transfer

Members of the National Assembly have opposed a proposal that seeks to impose restrictions on voters who would wish to change their polling stations. The National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee has said the proposals contained in the Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2022 are unconstitutional and unviable. The Bill states that those seeking to transfer their vote will be required to prove that they are employed, own a business, possess land or a residential building for at least six months in the constituency they intend to move to.
Ruaraka MP, TJ Kajwang said while the intention by IEBC is good for taming mass voter movement, the proposed method is unconstitutional as it limits the rights of citizens.

No mobile network coverage at 11,000 polling stations; IEBC says

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) says some 11,000 lack 3G mobile network coverage for electronic transmission of results in the August 9 polls as required by the law. The Commission has urged the MPs to back a proposal in the Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2022 that would allow a complimentary method of transmission of results.
IEBC director of Legal Affairs, Chrispine Owiye, told the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee that they risked breaching the law and urged MPs to approve the Bill to ensure results flow smoothly from polling centers.

No hopping: IEBC says to losers in party primaries in new proposal 

Losers in the political party’s nominations will be locked out from vying as independent candidates in the August 9 General Election if MPs approve changes to the law. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) wants Parliament to amend the Elections Act, 2011 to eliminate a 14-day window that allows losers in party primaries to run as independents. The law currently requires political parties to present party lists 90 days to the General Elections while independent candidates have 120 days to submit their names to the IEBC.
The electoral agency said the amendments to the Elections Act, 2011 will provide equality in the treatment of candidates presented by political parties and those who run as independents. The Constitution stipulates that for one to run as an independent candidate, the person must not have been a member of a political party at least 90 days before the general election. The law currently gives nomination losers a window of 14 days to resign from the party they ran on and become independent candidates.

Public Participation

The National Assembly invites views on the following Bills:
1. The Elections (Amendment) Bill (Senate Bill. No 42 of 2022)
2. The County Governments (Amendment) Bill (Senate Bill No. 38 of 2021)
3. The County Oversight and Accountability Bill (Senate Bill No. 17 of 2021)
4. The Heritage and Museums Bill (Senate Bill No. 22 of 2021)

Memoranda may be emailed to; to be received on or before Monday 21st March 2022 at 5pm.

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