Corruption has undermined electoral reforms in Kenya

Wafula Chebukati the chairperson of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission- IEBC giving his remarks during Nation Leadership Forum on 2017 Election in Nairobi, Kenya.

The African Governance Report IV, by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, observes that corruption thrives more when there is lack of good governance (transparency and accountability), characterized by weak institutions, ineffective checks, and balances, inadequate regulatory and legal frameworks, and poor enforcement mechanisms. It creates an adverse situation in which both the rule of law and independence of institutions are undermined. In this sense ,corruption flares up capture of governance institutions by generating considerable distortions and inefficiencies characterized by impunity; disregard of processes, looting of state resources and misuse of public offices without legal consequences. Unfortunately for Kenya, the vice is both structural and systemic, engrained in critical governance institutions inter alia investigative, anti-corruption and electoral systems. 

The cruel capture of governance institutions, particularly elections related, manifests every other time Kenya goes to elections. Politicians spend billions in political campaigns for the various elective positions without any accountability. This raises the question regarding the source of these resources and why accountability mechanism is disregarded.

In 2013, the legislature enacted the Election Campaign Finance Act 2013 aimed at regulating the flow of money during campaigns to create a level playing ground for political competitors. This Act was however suspended a few months to the 2017 general elections, paving way for ridiculous spending on campaigns. During the same period, the Ethics & Anti-Corruption Commission released a list of 106 politicians and advised the Independent Elections & Boundaries Commission to preclude them from contesting premised on integrity grounds. The IEBC, however, cleared them to contest arguing that the legal system had not found them guilty of any criminal offense. They easily fulfilled the low criminal threshold in place. This calls into question the logic behind using criminal standards rather than integrity standards to determine integrity threshold.

The lack of effective policies, for instance, to regulate resource use in campaigns and integrity standards to determine integrity threshold incites corruption in elections. Politicians exploit these gaps to loot state coffers in preparation for campaigns; bribe voters and manipulate electoral processes to attain particular results in their favor. The electoral officials are persuaded to cooperate due to resulting personal benefits including protection. Such understanding creates a rancorous circle of impunity where state officers are constantly engaged in a looting rampage so as to generate enough resources to bungle elections in their favor and also frustrate any meaningful electoral reforms.        

 Writer:  Paul Annan

Medika Medi
Author: Medika Medi
Communications Assistant

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