AG: Integrity Bill a 'good foundation' on ethics
Attorney General Githu Muigai has said the Integrity Bill lays a "good foundation" to build the country's leadership and ethical standards August 22, 2012 NATION MEDIA GROUP
By ALPHONCE SHIUNDU email@example.com
Posted Wednesday, August 22 2012 at 12:21
- Bill gives a good first step towards creating ethical standards in the country, says Attorney General.
- Gichugu MP Martha Karua takes issue with the Bills' failure to provide a mechanism to vet candidates for the elective office.
Attorney General Githu Muigai has said the Integrity Bill lays a "good foundation" to build the country's leadership and ethical standards.
Speaking during debate in Parliament on Wednesday morning –on the Leadership and Integrity Bill-- Prof Muigai told MPs that the wording of the Constitution had constrained the form of the Bill.
"Our hands are tied by the language of the Constitution itself. We cannot, even if we desire to do it right now develop Chapter Six to expand the threshold of integrity," said Prof Muigai.
"Doing the best we can, with the limited material that we have, I believe this Bill gives a good first step towards creating ethical standards in the country."
He added: "It is not a perfect Bill. It is a consensus document. In matters that are deeply political like this issue, it is not possible to get a total and unreserved agreement on the document."
The AG said that the Bill, if enacted, will just be "an interim statute". He said there were many disparate laws that have to be consolidated, so that there's one statute book that deals with matters of ethics and integrity. Ethics and morals, he said, were "aspirations".
"We see this law as a necessary one, and are acutely aware that it can be improved, so that we may put anything that can reasonably be put in at this stage, to make it more robust, and reasonable, without making it unworkable," Prof Muigai said.
Presidential hopefuls Peter Kenneth (Gatanga) and Martha Karua (Gichugu) opposed the Bill saying that it waters down the threshold of integrity.
Mr Kenneth, an assistant Planning minister, rejected attempts by Transport minister Amos Kimunya to gag him. Mr Kimunya wanted Mr Kenneth stopped from opposing the Bill because it the product of an agreed government position.
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The House rules are clear that a minister cannot oppose the same government they serve in while in the House, unless they resign.
"Even as we work in the same government, we shall not be forced to conform to what is not right. We might pass this Bill here, and eventually it will fall flat when it goes (to the courts) for interpretation," said Mr Kenneth.
He urged the House to note that the law is for the future generation, and it must be enacted now to bring discipline in public service.
"It is not an issue of whether someone is trying to be white, or whiter or playing to the gallery. It is an issue of ensuring that we have integrity and discipline in all echelons of leadership in this country," said Mr Kenneth.
Ms Karua said the MPs should stop legislating to protect their interests. She took issue with the Cabinet's decision to delete the clauses on wealth declaration by public officials, and also the failure to provide a mechanism to vet candidates for elective office.
"It is not in vain that the civil society, the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution, and the public are unhappy with the way the Bill is…Legislate even for your own worst enemy," Ms Karua, a former Justice Minister, told MPs.
She added: "A court of law interpreting this law, can also put a higher threshold. It is not about you and me, there are so many people focusing on those vying for seats. This is about Kenya. This law is supposed to help us tame corruption and impunity."
Trade minister Moses Wetang'ula backed the Bill, saying that the provisions were not unconstitutional, but were perhaps "just weak".
"We're not creating a leadership of saints; we're creating a reasonable leadership that can respond to the needs of society…How can rejection of a visa application have a bearing on your leadership?" posed Mr Wetang'ula.
Najib Balala (Mvita) added: "We're not looking for angels in the next elections; but we're also not looking for crooks."
Fahim Twaha (Lamu West) backed the Bill in the House, saying that the uneasy NGOs were just pushing the interests of their foreign masters, something that should be equated to "borderline treason".
The Bill now awaits amendments before it gets final approval and presidential assent. The debate was concluded in the Wednesday morning session.