Three weeks after the Ombudsman warned against the use of State resources in political campaigns, government agencies are still getting involved in electioneering.
The Commission on Administrative Justice (the Ombudsman) recently called on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to take action against any political party or candidate “proven to have aided or abetted the participation of public officers or use of public resources in political activities”.
“The participation of public officers and use of public resources in political activities politicise and create anarchy and patronage in the public service and other appointive positions, thereby undermining the Constitution,” warned the Ombudsman’s acting chairperson Regina Mwatha.
With little over a month to election day, concerns have been raised that State agencies are stifling perceived opponents of the government while drumming up support for Jubilee Party.
US-based organisation Human Rights Watch on Sunday warned that, by dabbling in active politics, the agencies violate national laws and erode public confidence in the institutions.
Mr Otsieno Namwaya, HRW lead researcher for Africa, said one of the factors flagged by the Waki Commission as a cause of the 2007/2008 post-election violence was the public’s lack of confidence in State institutions such as the Judiciary and the police.
“Even though some of these institutions were reformed, they are today engaged in acts that are eroding confidence in the eyes of the public,” said Mr Namwaya. “Our worry is that, by this behaviour, the August 8 elections may not be free and fair.”
ENGAGE IN POLITICS
Also in the spotlight are those heading such agencies or in positions of authority who actively engage in politics, in breach of the Public Service Code of Conduct and Regulations.
And despite many laws barring public servants from political party campaigns, a number of them have defied them and are part of the Jubilee campaign machinery.
Section 16 of the Public Officers Ethics Act requires them not to engage in any political activity that may compromise or be seen to interfere with the neutrality of their office.
Section 15 of the Electoral Offences Act warns that those who engage in active campaigns for a political party or act as its agents are liable to a fine of up to Sh1 million, imprisonment for up to three years or both.
But this has been ignored by top parastatal chiefs, constitution commission chairs and heads of independent offices.
Among institutions in the spotlight are the NGOs Coordination Board and its chief executive Yusuf Fazul Mahamad, the National Police Service (NPS) and its Inspector-General Joseph Boinnet, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and its Commissioner-General John Njiraini and the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA).
Others are the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) and its chairman Francis ole Kaparo, as well as the IEBC and its chairman Wafula Chebukati.
The NGOs Board has been flagged as being overzealous.
Besides openly supporting Jubilee, it has muzzled alternative voices, deregistering civil society groups or perceived critics of the State.
In the past six months, the board has deregistered two foundations headed by senior members of the National Super Alliance over what Mr Fazul claimed were financial irregularities. Nasa is fighting to oust President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The NGO Board swung into action after President Kenyatta’s claim on Jamhuri Day that money disguised as for supporting good governance or civic education was meant to “influence our election”.
The board consequently terminated the $20 million (Sh2 billion) Kenya Electoral Assistance Programme of the International Federation for Electoral Systems (Ifes) for not being registered as an NGO.
Mr Fazul’s letter ordered Ifes to cease operations immediately, ordered its foreign employees out and instructed the Central Bank of Kenya to freeze its bank accounts.
Mr Fazul has always enjoyed State protection whenever issues touching on his integrity and qualifications have arisen.
Devolution Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri’s attempt at dissolving the board last year was quickly rescinded and the board moved to the Interior ministry.
The arrest of Nation journalist Walter Menya on allegations of corruption over his story implicating top civil servants in Jubilee campaigns also exposed the apparent collusion between the NPS and the party’s propaganda team.
Jubilee-allied bloggers broke the news of the arrest on social media, complete with photos of Mr Menya in handcuffs at the highly fortified Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) headquarters.
They also circulated the alleged evidence implicating the journalist even as the investigators were asking the court to allow them to hold him longer than 24 hours to “conclude investigations”.
The audio recordings and alleged M-Pesa transactions were not admitted as evidence.
The saga also exposed the DCI, headed by Mr Ndegwa Muhoro, as working for Jubilee.
That Mr Boinnet released a statement himself announcing the arrest of Mr Menya, claiming he had been arrested for extortion but without revealing the identity of the victim, also raised eyebrows.
The involvement of Mr Njiraini in the party’s fundraising dinner last month also raised questions.
Mr Chebukati’s recent statement that Cabinet ministers are free to campaign, saying they were within the law, was also seen as partisan.
IEBC has been seen to echo Jubilee calls on a number of issues.
For example, Mr Chebukati condemned plans by Nasa to set up a parallel vote tallying system yet ignored the fact that Jubilee was also setting up its own.
On Sunday, however, the commission sought to fight partiality accusations, saying it has a professional relationship with all political parties.
“We exist to manage elections and we are doing it professionally. I won’t comment on mere allegations,” said the IEBC through director of communications Andrew Limo.
Mr Kaparo has triggered claims of bias when he supported Jubilee in hitting out at Nasa’s “10 million-strong” campaign slogan, pointing out that it could cause violence, yet he has been silent on Jubilee Party’s own “70+1” call.
But on Sunday, he clarified that he had condemned both sides of the divide for peddling falsehoods.
Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) chairman John Mbadi called on Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko to open investigations on all public servants who have openly engaged in political party campaigns.
“What is DPP doing?” asked Mr Mbadi. “This is pure negligence on the part of the DPP.”