Bernard Gitau @benagitau
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s recent directive for lifestyle audit for all public officers has come under sharp scrutiny, with observers questioning its practicality amid legal loopholes.
According to lawyers, the quest for lifestyle audit as a deterrent to corruption may not yield much unless a proper legal framework is put in place to back and guide it.
Third Way Alliance Party leader Ekuru Aukot, who led the Committee of the Experts that drafted the current Constitution, yesterday dismissed the planned exercise as “cosmetic”.
He said the directive was bound to be challenged in court and advised the government to put in place mechanisms that will enshrine the directive in the Constitution.
“While I commend the President for declaring he would subject himself and other public officers to lifestyle audit, most of them likely rely on Article 40 of the Constitution on the protection of property to constrain the process,” said Aukot (pictured).
The 2017 poll presidential candidate urged the President to put the initiative on hold until Parliament passes a legislation to implement it.
According to Aukot, the law as is does not allow for a lifestyle audit on public officers even though they are required to declare their wealth every two years.
Lawyer Prof George Wajackoyah said the inconsistency in the law allows unscrupulous businesspeople, celebrities and politicians with a questionable source of wealth to go scot-free.
“Chapter Six of the Constitution on integrity covers civil servants, but is silent on non-civil servants. How do you deal with those individuals who are beneficiaries of loot by rogue civil servants?” he asked.
And although the results of the lifestyle audit are an indicator something may be amiss, Wajackoyah says it cannot solely be relied on as conclusive proof of illicit wealth.
East Africa Centre for Law and Justice executive director Joy Mdivo said it is difficult to detect corrupt individuals through the audit because most hide ill-gotten wealth in offshore accounts.
“However, the law cannot legislate on morality, no amount of oversight can ascertain personal integrity. It all boils down to one’s values,” she said.