Campaign spending limits will boost anti-graft war
Article 88 of the Constitution sets out the establishment of an electoral body to among others, regulate the amount of money that may be spent by, or on behalf of, a candidate or party in respect to any election.
This led to the enactment of the Election Campaign Financing Act 2013 which provides for the regulation, management, expenditure and accountability of campaign funds.
The implementation of this law has been delayed for two electoral cycles. The National Assembly’s decision to nullify the elections campaign spending limits, gazetted by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), citing the lapse of legal timelines within which the commission ought to have submitted the regulations, casts aspersions on political will to fight corruption.
It should not escape Kenyans, that the MPs subverting attempts to regulate campaign funding belong to political formations that have pledged to fight graft should they assume power.
Yet election campaigns remain a fertile ground for corruption considering how campaign funds is raised and spent in Kenya.
Campaign financiers may be persons or entities seeking favours such as government contracts or appointments after elections, laundering illicitly acquired money or linked to serious criminal activities such as drug trafficking, arms trade and terrorism.
True commitment to tackle graft needs to be first demonstrated in the regulation of campaign funding.
According to the “Cost of Politics in Kenya” report by Westminster Foundation and Mzalendo Trust, in the 2017 elections, candidates incurred an average of Sh35.5 million to run for Senate, Sh22.8 million to contest for Woman Rep, Sh18.2 million for National Assembly and Sh 3.1 million for MCA.
The country is grappling with ‘Monetisation of politics’ which is a dominant factor in vote-buying, bribery, intimidation, electoral violence and other malpractices.
Then there is the strong nexus between the expensive campaigns and grand corruption cases in the past 30 years.
They inlcude the Goldenberg scandal, in which billions of shillings was lost in a scheme that implicated top officials in then President Moi’s government and the Anglo-Leasing case in which contracts were awarded to phantom firms.
So, it is not farfetched to posit that some of the financial scandals witnessed recently were orchestrated to finance the 2022 election.
It is no wonder then that politicians are reluctant to set in motion a law that will ensure the disclosure of campaign sources and spending.
The spending limits gazetted by IEBC should be delinked from the General Regulations on Election Campaign Financing as the two processes are independent of each other.
IEBC should then enforce the spending limits. IEBC acted within its mandate in tabling the limits as required under Article 88(4)(i) of the Constitution and prescribed under Sections 12, 18 and 19 of the Election Campaign Financing law.
The Commission does not require the approval of Parliament to release the gazette notice on the spending limits.
These provisions are self-executing and do not require any further Regulations.
The National Assembly can give any feedback for consideration by the Commission on these limits as part of public input and feedback.
IEBC reserves the right to vary the gazette limits based on feedback and views from the public.
However, it is important to note that the amounts indicated are limits for different elective seats and a candidate does not need to spend to the extent of the limit indicated.
The National Assembly should consider the Regulations tabled by IEBC as a matter of public interest and apply the parameters provided under Standing Order 210.
Further, the legislators should consider and enact the Election Campaign Financing (Amendment) Bill 2020 which seeks to address concerns raised by Parliament in regard to the implementation mechanisms.
The 12th Parliament should leave a lasting legacy as the House that contributed towards the control of dirty money in elections and by so doing, leveling the playing field for women, youth, PWDs, and others who are traditionally disenfranchised in political processes.
Kenyans must support the regulation on campaign financing and reject handouts from politicians. —The writer is the Executive Director, Transparency International Kenya