Leadership and Integrity Bill 2012: It is Right of Electorate to Know about Election Candidates

August 21, 2012/…. While there is an overwhelming support for democracy in Kenya, there seems to be some dangerous low levels of trust in political parties and politicians. This low level of trust is due to first, the striking number of Members of Parliament (MPs) adversely mentioned in many government sanctioned commissions of inquiries or with criminal records; and secondly, the rising number of extremely wealthy politicians whose source of wealth is never made public.

People of Kenya have a right to ensure restoration of confidence in governance and stem electoral corruption. The elected representatives have to be part of the process. However, it is only sustained pressure, not just from courts and institutions like the Electoral Commission (IEBC), but also from voters that can effect real change.

Therefore, on Leadership and Integrity Bill 2012 we state as follows;

1.      It is the right of the electorate to access information regarding people who will be trusted with public offices, and enact and implement laws and policies that have direct or indirect implication on the rights of citizens. 

2.      We observe that concealing the information affects the right to information, a fundamental right of the voter.

3.      Any misinformation or non-information, all equally create an uninformed citizen, who would finally make the democracy a monocracy and farce. The principle is to ensure free and fair elections. Exposure to public scrutiny is one of the best known means of getting clean and less corrupted persons to govern the country and therefore, the right of a citizen to information with regard to the antecedents of the candidates.

4.      We want all election candidates and political parties to make available to citizens the following: disclosure of information about campaign funders; bank account information of a political party and candidate; the background of candidates, including their assets and any pending criminal investigations; the management and use of any public funds; the salary and other income and all liabilities.

5.      Time is ripe for politicians to be more open about their personal finances. This will offer the first step in deterring misuse of public office for personal gain.

6.      Additionally, we are calling upon all presidential candidates to make public their tax returns for the last four years. The tax returns must also disclose direct or indirect income from companies they are shareholding. 

7.       Kenyans have a right to know every public act, everything that is done in a public way by the public functionaries.  All elected persons are undoubtedly public functionaries. Public education is essential for functioning of the process of popular government and to assist the discovery of truth and strengthening the capacity of an individual in participating in decision making process. The decision making process of a voter would include his right to know about public functionaries who are required to be elected by him/her.

8.       Finally, to maintain the purity of elections and in particular to bring transparency in the process of election, the Commission can ask the candidates about the expenditure incurred by the political parties. This transparency during election would include transparency of a candidate who seeks election or re-election. In a democracy, the electoral process has a strategic role. The ‘little man’ of this country would have basic elementary right to know full particulars of a candidate who is to represent him in Parliament where laws to bind his liberty and property may be enacted.