Public and state officers will undergo a mandatory lifestyle audit after Senators unanimously approved a bill on wealth reviews. The Lifestyle Audit Bill, 2021, which seeks to ensure government officers account for their wealth, now awaits the endorsement of the National Assembly, before it is presented to the President for assent.
The bill which has been sponsored by Nominated Senator Farhiya Ali, also provides a legal framework for the lifestyle audit. This initiative is a boost to the war against graft, and will help the anti-graft agencies unearth public officials who use public resources to enrich themselves.
Majority Leader Senator Samuel Poghisio, said the bill will assist the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission, Directorate of Criminal Investigations and Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in tackling corruption and other related economic crimes.
Moving forward, those who have obtained monies corruptly will feel the heat and know that there is a law that is going after them. This is not the first time that decision makers are having this conversation however. In 2018, the President ordered lifestyle audits of all senior procurement and finance officials, making it the first administration to demand that level of transparency for its public officers.
The approval of the bill, comes in the wake of leaked Pandora papers, accusing high ranking public officials and their families, of own offshore companies. The President has however, welcomed the information and asserted that media revelations such as those, will usher in a new age of financial transparency and openness, in Kenya and globally. In particular, the Pandora Papers will lift the lid on those who have ill-gotten wealth and those who have stashed proceeds of crime, money laundering, ivory trade amongst other illegalities.
There is currently no legal framework proving for the mechanisms of conducting lifestyle audits on public or state officers. The bill will therefore, give Kenya Revenue Authority, EACC and the Public Service Commission powers to conduct the audits, and to publish the income, assets and liabilities declared by the individuals facing the audit.
Those who give false information in the audit processes, will be liable to imprisonment for two years or a fine of not less than Sh5 million. While those who volunteer to surrender illegally acquired wealth will be given amnesty.
The bill also gives members of the public, the leeway to file complaints to the agencies on any unexplained wealth acquired by public or state officers. To this end, the public has registered varied reactions towards the bill.
Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang affirms that the bill should help the country unearth the unscrupulous public and state officers, intent on using public resources to enrich themselves. Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula said the bill enhances existing efforts, legal structures and institutions to enhance accountability. He stated that through the bill, state officers will be keen to get into the public service to serve the public, and not to enrich themselves.
This level of public engagement is paramount in the fight against graft. Adequate laws, strong and empowered institutions and public goodwill, will definitely improve on the expected outcomes in our anti-corruption campaigns.