Governors, MPs and MCAs facing investigations for graft will have to step aside if Parliament passes proposed amendments to anti-corruption laws.
A task force led by Attorney-General Githu Muigai has prepared a raft of amendments to various laws, which if passed, would force elected leaders implicated in corruption or unethical practices to leave office when they are under investigation.
“There is (a) need for the development of an effective mechanism for compelling elected leaders who are implicated in corruption or unethical practices to leave office when they are under investigation,” the report says.
This means that the governors being investigated by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission may be required to vacate office until cleared of wrongdoing.
Among those being investigated are Mr Isaac Ruto (Bomet), Dr Evans Kidero (Nairobi), Mr Samuel Tunai (Narok), Mr Peter Munya (Meru), Dr Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Mr Josephat Nanok (Turkana), Mr Hassan Joho (Mombasa), Mr Ukur Yatani (Marsabit), Mr Okoth Obado (Migori), Mr Godana Doyo (Isiolo) and Mr Cyprian Awiti (Homa Bay).
Garissa Governor Nathif Jama is expected in court to answer to charges relating to the irregular leasing of ambulances in his county.
If the law is amended, National Assembly members Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills), Sonia Birdi (nominated) and Richard Onyonka (Kitutu Chache South), as well as Senators Gideon Sonko (Nairobi) and Johnson Muthama (Machakos) will also be required to step aside because they are either facing investigations or have been arraigned in court on corruption or unethical practices.
Mr Sonko has announced that he has stepped aside to await the outcome of investigations against him, but most other elected leaders have been arguing that the existing law does not oblige them to vacate office if they are facing investigations.
In March, President Kenyatta presented Parliament with a list of public officers under investigation by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.
He demanded that Cabinet secretaries and other officials on the List of Shame step aside, and out went Mrs Charity Ngilu (Lands), Mr Kazungu Kambi (Labour), Mr Michael Kamau (Transport), Mr Felix Koskei (Agriculture) and Mr Davis Chirchir (Energy)
However, governors and MPs on the list defied the directive, saying they were not answerable to the President.
Now the task force wants a law that will force elected leaders under corruption investigations to step aside until they are cleared.
The team was set up by President Kenyatta to review the legal policy and institutional framework for tackling corruption.
It came at a time when the EACC was undergoing turmoil that forced out the three commissioners, chairman Mumo Matemu, deputy Irene Keino and Ms Jane Onsongo.
The task force report comes as the EACC faces total collapse with the National Assembly resolution yesterday for the sacking of CEO Halake Waqo and deputy Michael Mubea, who have been heading the anti-graft body in the absence of the commissioners.
In the draft report developed during a retreat last week, the team recommended a raft of amendments to various laws to strengthen the EACC’s and the Director of Public Prosecutions’ capacity to detect, investigate and prosecute corruption cases.
To ensure compliance, the task force has recommended teh formation of a Code of Conduct and an Ethics Tribunal to investigate leaders who breach Chapter Six of the Constitution. The tribunal will also mete out penalties such as removal from office, disqualification from holding public office for at least five years and the seizure of any property that might have been acquired corruptly.
The task force has further proposed an amendment to the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act to provide that a trial involving corruption or economic crime shall be heard and determined within two years.
The task force, however, recommends that the DPP retains powers to prosecute while the EACC’s role be limited to investigations.
“The current arrangement whereby EACC investigates corruption and economic crimes, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Judiciary adjudicates over them should be maintained as it guarantees fair trial, impartiality, adherence to the rule of law and creates necessary checks and balances to prevent abuse of power,” the draft report says.
The task force recommends the restructuring of EACC to provide for three to five commissioners who will act on a part-time basis and a director-general, who will serve on a full-time basis as the commission’s secretary and chief executive officer responsible for executing its decisions.
It further proposes that to give the CEO security of tenure by providing that only a tribunal appointed by the Chief Justice can recommend his removal.