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15 February, 2012

Oaths of Office and Conduct of State Officers

Our previous editorial Francis Wangendo in this series dealt with the issue of Leadership and Integrity in Kenya's new Constitution. If you missed it, check out: Leadership and Integrity.

In this article, we pay close attention to what Kenya's new Constitution stipulates regarding oaths of office and conduct of state officers. In other words, we emphasize that elected officers are bound by the oaths of their offices to conduct themselves and the business of their positions according to the regulations governing that role. Their conduct or character or actions must be in accordance with the rules laid down by the Constitution on how that particular office should be run. And, unless the citizens hold them accountable, we have seen that many public servants have ended up abusing their positions. To make this clearer, allow me to digress a little.

The Speaker of Kenya's National Assembly, one Kenneth Marende, was at the Kenyan Embassy in Washington DC, USA on Friday, last week, Feb 3, 2012 - and responded to several questions from Kenyans living in the area. When I asked him a specific question regarding the matter of new chairs being made for the Kenya National Assembly, he had a very comprehensive response. But still - even after he claimed that the original cost of each chair plummeted from a bizarre Ksh400,000 to Ksh220,000, there were still gaping holes regarding the entire tendering and bidding process in such a venture. And, again, it was hard to understand why his position would entail such deep involvement in a matter involving such a tender. If you reflect that the Kenyan Parliament needs 350 such chairs - and then do the math - you begin to realize the gravity of the matter. If the original tender went ahead, a total of Ksh140 million would be spent on chairs only. And the Speaker's explanation? He said that, among other reasons, the Tanzanian Parliament recently spent more money on chairs! And this is the point: we intend to educate the common mwananchi to be aware of the new Constitution's guidelines on every aspect of the conduct of state offices so that we as a nation become better informed and more involved in the affairs of our politics.

Let us get back to the business of this article. The new Constitution simply stipulates that, before assuming a state office, a person shall take and subscribe the oath or affirmation of office, in the manner and form prescribed by the Third Schedule or under an Act of Parliament. In plain language and in reference to the intention of this article, all that legal jargon simply means that anyone elected to any public office must not perform the duties of that office before taking the oath. That emphasizes the importance of the way in which the person must do their work: being bound by the oath - then any person who acts in any way that is contrary to the stipulations of how that office should be run becomes disqualified to continue to serve. Our leaders are therefore encouraged to resign as soon as it becomes clear that they have strayed from the proper way of conducting the business of their respective offices. That is the right action to take - and there should be no shame in it. There is no heroism in politicians or any  >

other public officers thumping their chests and screaming that they will not resign - as if such action would show weakness of character. Parliament

The Parliament of Kenya

click to enlarge

Regarding conduct, the new Constitution stipulates that a State officer shall behave, whether in public and official life, in private life, or in association with other persons, in a manner that avoids-

  1. Any conflict between personal interests and public or official duties: This simply means that our elected officials must not use their positions to make any personal gain by taking advantage of their positions. They must desist from being involved in any business that results in personal profit if it is in any way related to their positions.
  2. Compromising any public or official interest in favour of a personal interest: Again, this simply means the total avoidance of the sort of corrupt manoeuvers that happen in virtually every Ministry or Government office in Kenya. For instance, if a tender does not go through the due process but instead gets passed and gives the officer in charge any profit, then the officer has compromised public and official interest in favour of a personal gain: it is that simple!
  3. Demeaning the office the officer holds: this simply means that the officer disregards the stipulated regulations of how to run that office and acts in any way that is contrary to how the office is supposed to be run. For instance, if a public officer mistreats or threatens members of the public using his/her position, that demeans the office the officer holds because it amounts to abuse of power.

The new Constitution further stipulates that any public officer who contravenes these regulations should be disciplined in accordance to the applicable disciplinary procedure for that particular office - and may be dismissed or otherwise removed from office - and such a person is then disqualified from holding any other State office. And Kenyans had better be aware of all these!

The next article focuses on section 76 of the new Constitution. This section deals the financial probity of state officers. This is in regard to with donations to state officers on public or official occasions and what that means and where such donations should go - and if there is any room for exemption by an Act of Parliament. – Stay informed!

Kenya Presidential Debates

~ Francis Wangendo
Publicity Manager, KPD
Washington DC, USA ~

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