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15 March, 2012

Financial Probity of State Officers

Our previous article Francis Wangendo in this series paid close attention to some relevant historical background to Kenyan politics during the struggle for Independence and the formative years of Jomo Kenyatta's presidency. If you missed it, check it out at: A Return to Issue Politics.

In this article, we focus on section 76 of the new Constitution. This section deals with the financial probity of State officers. "Probity" is defined as "complete and confirmed integrity; having strong moral principles." Within the context of this article, "probity" simply means how those elected to public office should behave in regard to donations given to them on 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. The first part of the section stipulates that any such donation or gift is, first and foremost, a donation to the Republic and shall be delivered to the State, unless exempted under an Act of Parliament. To our veteran politicians, this obviously sounds like a new twist and Kenyans must watch closely how their elected servants handle such donations since, traditionally, they have been known to assume personal possession and were never accountable to anyone. This is in regard to how, for instance, Harambee donations were siphoned away by powerful barons who would then leave wananchi cursing and asking questions about public funds that disappeared every time. Kenya Presidential Debates

This section also dictates that a State officer shall not maintain a bank account outside Kenya except in accordance with an Act of Parliament. This has been violated for as long as Kenyans can recall. There was a time when powerful politicians in Kenya were notorious for stashing away millions in foreign bank accounts and buying real estate in the UK and other European countries. It would be hard to believe that each of those people got cleared by an Act of Parliament to hide away those large sums of money.

The other stipulation in this section states that a State officer shall not seek or accept a personal loan or benefit in circumstances that compromise the integrity of the State officer. If we reflect on how our public servants have hitherto used their offices to access massive personal loans – and then reneged on repayments – then it boggles the mind to see how excessive abuse of office has been in our country. For a long time, integrity has not been a virtue associated with our elected officials. And now it is time to change!

The next article on Leadership and Integrity will focus on section 77 of the new Constitution which lays down stipulations on the restrictions on State officers. Stay informed, enlightened and involved

~ Francis Wang'endo
Publicity Manager, KPD ~

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