Parliament’s attempts to reject putting of limit on spending by candidates and political parties during elections campaigns has raised concerns over their commitment to fight corruption.
The Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) had already released the campaign expenditure limits for candidates and parties for the 2022 General Election. The presidential election candidate is limited to spend Kshs.4,435,565,094, a governor, woman representative and Member of Parliament (MP) are limited to spend Kshs.123,080,609 highest (for Turkana) and lowest at Kshs. 23,143,009 (for Tharaka Nithi), with different rates for different areas.
The MPs have however moved the Election Campaign Financing (Amendment) Bill, 2021 wanting to abolish the cap on the maximum threshold a candidate, political party or referendum committee may spend during campaigns as proposed by the IEBC. The implementation of the IEBC proposed law was deferred.
The electoral body submitted the Election Campaign Financing Regulations to Parliament in 2016, listing the authorized items or activities for which campaign expenses may be incurred, and for which spending limits apply to include; venues in which campaigns may be conducted, publicity material, advertising, campaign personnel, and transportation. Others include communication, nomination fees, security, accommodation, and administrative costs.
In their proposed Amendments, the MPs want the identity of donors to be confidential and only made public in case of a probe, while the IEBC wants the identity of the donor revealed.
The law requires details on sources of the contributions, including donations in cash or in-kind, received and the disclosure done at least 20 days before the nomination day and at least 20 days before the polling day. The punishment for contravening these requirements include disqualification for a candidate or a political party that fails to disclose the funds or donations. Further, any political party or candidate flouting the regulations is liable to a fine not exceeding two (2) million shillings or an imprisonment term not exceeding five years or to both.
The new proposed Bill goes to counter measures proposed by the electoral body to fight corruption in elections through the use of money to create an uneven playing field and to ‘buy’ votes through bribery of voters. Apart from these, the removal of caps on spending will perpetuate corruption as those funding the political aspirants will expect to benefit by recovering the funds, normally through awards of tenders, appointments among others.
Further, these electoral illegalities, perpetuated by politicians, and which IEBC sought to address, are now being frustrated by the same Parliament, which is the public watchdog, and which expected to lead in the fight against corruption.
The huge campaigns poured out during elections also locks out leaders who cannot afford the same, and allows corrupt leaders who steal public funds to splash on campaigns. This means qualified leaders who may posses’ high integrity and ethical values stand no chance at elections.
These politicians, who are exploiting the loopholes which allow unlimited expenditure during campaigns, have often become the major culprits in the high-profile corruption scandals which have gripped the country. Transparency and accountability during campaigns will go a long way to rid the country of corrupt leaders. Accordingly, Parliament should lead in passing laws to curb corruption, not to protect corrupt politicians. Giving room for escaping the consequences of contravening Chapter Six of the Constitution and other anti-graft laws should be stopped, if Kenya is to win the fight against corruption.