The countdown for chief executives, directors and employees of public institutions to declare their income, assets and liabilities has started. They have until December 31 to do so.
This is in line with requirements of the Public Officers Ethics Act provides that every public officer shall, once every two years, submit to the responsible Commission for the public officer a declaration of the income, assets and liabilities of self, spouse or spouses and dependent children under the age of 18 years.
All managers, directors and employees of public institutions are required under the law to disclose what they own as well as all their liabilities.
“All members of the board and staff, as well as those in the supervisory committee and their nuclear family, are required to provide their wealth details in these declaration forms. We are all required by law as public officers to fill wealth declaration forms every two years,” said Mr. Peter Munaita- Chairman of the Board of Directors, Nation Sacco Society Limited.
Top officials of state corporations and other public institutions as well as staff and supervisory committee members are filling wealth declaration forms as a time when a number of public officers are facing graft charges while others are under investigations or dismissed from office. The number of public institutions that have shut down due to theft and mismanagement or are struggling, continue to rise.
Among the latest public institution hit the headlines over allegations of financial impropriety or suspected loss of funds include Nairobi County Government, National Treasury, Kenya Ports Authority and Maasai Mara University among others. To date, none of the officers who were running affairs at these organizations is yet to be charged and sentenced by the courts.
Also still fresh in memory is Ekeza Sacco where members lost millions after being promised non-existent houses by Gakuyo Real Estate Firm, a subsidiary of Ekeza Sacco. The owners of Ekeza Sacco and its associated firms are still walking free.
“Without reference to any Sacco, investigations take time. SASRA is doing its best in enforcing the fit and proper guidelines and needs more support. Perhaps, because its sanctions are not publicised, many assume Saccos are not being held to account yet this happens every day just like in banks,” said Mr. Munaita.
He blames politics for meddling in the operations of many Saccos especially in those where there are leadership wrangles.
“We also have gaps in law where all manner of businesses can register under the Companies Act and run activities mirrored on the Sacco model, without being regulated at all. In this case, pyramid schemes come to mind,” said Mr Munaita.
The Ethics Commission for Co-operatives has published wealth declaration forms to be filled by senior managers and employees of co-operative societies. These forms are to be submitted by 31st December 2019.
The declaration of Income, Assets and Liabilities held by these individuals is in line with the Public Officers Ethics Acts (2003).
In the list of details required is the name of the public officer/employee, birth information, marital status, address, nation of the Co-operative Society, position held in the society and name of spouse(s).
The Officer is also required to list assets, including land, buildings, vehicles, investments and financial obligations owed to the person for whom the statement is made. Information is also required on the description and location of the asset where applicable.
The declaration also includes all liabilities of the said public officer/employee of a Co-operative Society, including amounts.
“Wealth declarations help capture inconsistencies which once detected raise a red flag. Honesty is hard to gauge and it is up to an individual’s values. This does not, however, invalidate the information captured,” said Mr Munaita.
A cross-section of analysts and top executives in the co-operative movement are pessimistic on effectiveness of the wealth declaration forms as a deterrent to unscrupulous officers who steal from public coffers.
“As the Ethics Commission for Co-operative Societies, all we do is file the information in these wealth declaration forms. But we still do not have the legal mandate to query the information that has been disclosed or even the mandate to evaluate the information that has been provided in these forms,” said Geoffrey Njang’ombe-Commissioner for Co-operatives Development.
He said that while the court can seek for crucial information from the Ethics Commission for Co-operative Societies, there are no legal provisions that can be used to pin down suspected looters of society funds.
“We still have no legal provisions that can enable investigators to carry out a lifestyle audit on any suspected official or staff of a co-operative society. These wealth declaration forms just act as moral checks to warn would-be culprits that someone is watching. The fact that these wealth declaration forms are also not made public is in itself a serious impediment,” said Mr Njang’ombe.
Interestingly, although the Ethics Commission for Co-operative Societies collects wealth declaration forms from societies, it has apparently remained moribund and toothless as officers continue to loot societies.
These wealth declaration forms are doing little of nothing to deter corruption in co-operatives. What we need to see is speedy investigations and those found culpable apprehended,” said Mr. Charles Ngutu, Director at Taraji Sacco.
These sentiments are shared by Dr. Samwel Nyandemo, a Senior Economics Lecturer at the University of Nairobi.
“This process of submitting wealth declaration forms by public officers has been an exercise in futility since the degree of honesty is absolutely not there,” said Dr. Nyandemo.
According to Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) Chairman Mr. Eliud Wabukala financial disclosures by public officials is one of the fundamental strategies applied around the world in an effort to fight corruption and promote ethics and integrity in public service.
Such declarations, he said, are to be managed and enforced by the various commissions designated or contemplated under Section 3 of the Public Officers Ethics Act (POEA).
He has urged all public officers to declare their wealth as 2019 is a declaration year where all public officials are required to submit their biennial declarations together with those of their spouse/s and children under the age of 18 years.
“All management committee members, supervisory and staff of co-operative societies are required to declare their incomes, assets and liabilities to the Ethics Commission for Co-operative Societies (ECCOS) after every two years.
“While the Co-operative Societies Act has adequate provisions to deal with those who loot from their societies, the wealth declaration forms will assist in providing crucial evidence to investigators,” said Mr Moses Chebor, Boresha Sacco Chief Executive Officer.
In March this year, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Co-operatives signed an MOU with the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC).
EACC CEO, Mr Twalib Mbarak, warned corrupt cartels in the co-operative movement to reform or else the Commission would initiate “lifestyle audits of all the personnel charged with the running of Saccos to catch those who have accumulated unexplained wealth”.
The MoU aims to among others, promote ethics and integrity through the enforcement of the Declaration of Income, Assets and Liabilities and Code of Conduct for State and Public Officers.
“I would like to confirm that officers within the co-operative societies have been declaring their wealth and that I am not aware of any lapses. As part of the governance structure, declaration of wealth is part of the by-laws of all co-operative societies.
We also have within certain societies, higher governance thresholds such as that requiring any director to indemnify the society against any losses that might occur due to the person being in office,” said John Mwaka, SASRA Chief Executive in a past interview with this publication.