The National Assembly's Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs (JLAC) is considering a Bill that seeks to remove two offences from the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act of 2003.
MPs to consider the scraping of 2 corruption offences
According to the Bill, the two corruption offences should be considered administrative matters and should not involve criminal prosecution.
The proposed amendments, outlined in the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes (Amendment) Bill of 2023, have raised concerns among experts and analysts who fear that the changes could undermine the ongoing fight against corruption.
Sponsored by Member of Parliament for Mbeere North Geoffrey Kariuki Ruku, the Bill aims to amend section 45(2) of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act of 2003.
The proposed amendments seek to delete two offences specified in parts 2(b) and (c) of the Act:
- The failure to adhere to procurement guidelines
- The engagement of public funds in unplanned projects.
According to the Bill, these offences should be considered administrative matters and be addressed through administrative actions rather than criminal prosecution.
Concerns raised by experts
Several experts and analysts have expressed concerns about the potential consequences of the proposed amendments. Dr Seth Wekesa, a Governance Expert and Law Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, believes that if enacted, the amendments would have a detrimental impact on the fight against corruption in Kenya.
He argued that criminalizing malpractices in public procurement is crucial to safeguard public funds from misuse.
While administrative remedies, such as dismissal and disciplinary action, are available for addressing misconduct by public officials, Dr Wekesa contended that the current criminal sanctions are necessary to ensure accountability.
The proposed amendments, if passed into law, could undermine the ongoing efforts to combat procurement-related corruption.
According to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, procurement breaches comprise 80% of corruption scandals.
President Ruto's stance on corruption
While the proposed amendments are being considered, the government, led by President William Ruto, has taken a strong stance against corruption.
President Ruto issued a proclamation emphasizing a zero-tolerance policy towards corruption during his tenure.
In a circular sent by the Head of Public Service, Felix Koskei, to all heads of Ministries, Departments, and Agencies, the President directed them to personally lead the fight against corruption in their respective roles.
The government expects strict adherence to constitutional and legislative provisions related to public resource management and urges public officials to demonstrate an unwavering commitment to the people and the Constitution.
The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission's response
The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) has committed to reviewing the proposed Bill and raising any concerns with the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee of the National Assembly, which plays a crucial role in the Commission's mandate.
Eric Ngumbi, the Head of Corporate Affairs and Communication at the EACC, emphasised that amendments to existing anti-corruption laws should enhance effectiveness rather than create loopholes or escape routes for perpetrators of corruption.
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