MPs back bill to counter campaign financing law
MPs have opposed a Bill that seeks to compel them to disclose the amount and source of contributions received for campaigns.
The Elections Campaign Financing Act requires that a person aspiring to participate in an election makes public the source of funds and the amount intended to be spent in the campaigns.
But a Bill sponsored by Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni that is in its Second Reading is seeking to amend the law and, if it goes through, it will not be mandatory to make public one’s finances and sources.
During debate on the Bill, MPs were unanimous that sourcing for campaign funds was a private matter which need not be publicised.
To ensure compliance, just like in the principal law, the Kioni Bill provides that individuals and entities that fail to disclose the funds or donations commit an offence but does not specify the sentence, leaving room for violators.
Contributing, MPs said the current law on campaign financing violated an aspirant’s privacy by compelling them to disclose the source of their funds. “Campaign funding is a private matter where an individual looks for friends and associates. You do not expect one to make that public,” said Kitui Central MP Makali Mulu.
Funyula MP Wilberforce Oudo said a law should not be used to stifle the election process and disadvantage the less privileged. If the amendment Bill is passed, candidates and political parties in an election will no longer be required to comply with the tough financing law.
Currently, the Election Campaign Financing Act 2013 requires candidates and political parties that receive contributions to finance their campaigns to issue receipts for any amount exceeding Sh20,000.
The law also requires candidates and entities in an election to keep records of specific details of contributions — for instance, if it’s a harambee, the venue, date, organiser and total contributions.
Introduction of the tough campaign financing requirements was meant to provide a level playing field for all parties in an election: those with money to mount huge campaigns and those without. It was also meant to ensure the proceeds of crime, corruption and drugs do not find a way into election campaign financing.
But Kioni in his Bill seeks to amend these requirements on the basis that they are not implementable.
Leader of Majority Amos Kimunya said the new Bill was timely, given the season the country is in. “In the US, candidates are required to form a political action committee that fundraises for them and accounts for the money. Ours is a cut-and-paste system; we never thought of this. The amendments being proposed by Kioni will help cure the anomalies,” Kimunya said.
Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo said the campaign financing law is ambitious and utopic. “It is of no point to make provisions that are unenforceable, like expenditure committees. Requiring the Auditor-General to audit even Independent candidates does not make sense. It talks about this without disclosing who will fund the Auditor,” he said.
The elections campaign financing law commenced on August 12, 2017 after being suspended for the August 8, 2017 polls. Interestingly, the draft regulations by the IEBC were dismissed by the National Assembly for being time-barred.
The Delegated Legislation Committee ruled that the draft rules were not relevant to the 2022 polls. The regulations are required to be brought before the House for approval before being published in the ‘Kenya Gazette’.
The committee further established that the commission not only submitted the rules late but “hurriedly concocted a quick draft with the title reading 2020 and the citation reading 2016, and submitted it to the House out of time.”
Section 5 of the Elections Financing Act anticipates that rules regulating election campaign financing are to be made fresh before every General Election since the financial circumstances vary from one election to another.
This is meant to capture any changes in the finances in the country, thus the 2016 regulations aren’t usable for the 2022 General Election.
The law requires that the rules must be published in the Kenya Gazette at least 12 months to an election date.
The committee’s report noted that the late submission of the regulations did not allow it time to consider them with the set timelines in line with section 13 of the Statutory Instruments Act.
“The commission had sufficient time from 2017, after the last General Election, to submit the regulations for consideration to the National Assembly,” reads the report. The IEBC had published contributions and spending limits on August 9, 2021, exactly a year to the General Election, in the gazette.
But the National Assembly termed the publication unprocedural as the limits and ceilings were to be informed by the regulations, which have not been approved by Parliament as required by law.