One of the proposals in the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2022 was to reduce the number of Chapter 15 Commissioners from nine to seven. The proponents of this amendment argued that the reduction would curb the expenditures required to maintain the constitutional offices. The BBI Bill that was meant to amend that part of the Constitution did not however, go to a referendum. Thus ensures that the commissions stay in place and are still able to undertake their mandate.
Constitutional Commissions and Independent Offices (CCIOs) are commissions and offices formed through the constitution and acts of Parliament to provide oversight, capacity building and generally improve democracy in Kenya. They include the Office of the Controller of Budget, Office of the Auditor General, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, Independent Policing Oversight Authority and Judicial Service Commission, among others. The institutions have made huge strides in promoting governance and democracy over the past ten years since their operationalization under the 2010 Constitution in the country.
But there are other existing challenges that seem to be impacting on the (CCIOs) Their members are accusing various agencies of frustrating their efforts to deliver, through budgetary constraints and the failure to enforce their decisions. The budgetary constraints have forced them to share offices in some parts of the country to deliver services to more Kenyans.
Further, the delays in appointing crucial office holders to replace those whose terms have lapsed have also impacted on their mandate. These administrative gaps raise legal challenges, as the legality of the decisions undertaken by the independent institutions during the transition periods, cannot be binding.
Chief Justice Martha Koome has added her voice to the concern stating that the allocation of meagre funds to CCIOs is a concern that Executive and Parliament should address. She says, “In my assessment, the commissions and independent offices have risen to the challenge and have emerged as a catalyst for the realization of the aspirations that animate the 2010 Constitution. They have proved to be consequential institutions and have made a difference in our country’s governance,”
Part of this difference has included supporting the public in the fight against corruption. Each of the CCIO’s, play a critical role in upholding the constitution and specifically, in strengthening out anti-corruption initiatives. Their oversight roles have included looking into the budgets and finances of institutions at the county and national levels. They have been whistle blowers in their own right, letting Kenyans know when and how their taxes are being spent and by whom. In other instances, they have promoted accountability where the Constitution has been violated. They have also held public officers accountable in their duties by launching investigations and facilitating the arrest and prosecution of rogue public officers, including those found engaging in corrupt practices.
It is for this reason that the CCIO’s require all the support that they deserve from both the public and the government. As anti-corruption partners they require immense financial and material resources necessary to undertake their activities. In particular, budgetary allocations must be adequate and consistent to sustain their managerial and operational initiatives.
Tied to this, they also require clear and timely feedback from the public. They require a robust and dedicated community of whistle blowers and witnesses to fast track their investigations and prosecution.
The fight against corruption is a collective agenda and will require each of us to succeeded.