MPs reject lawyers bid to hide dealings with clients
Zachary Ochuodho and Anthony Mwangi
Members of Parliament yesterday rejected a petition by lawyers opposing amendment to sections of the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act seeking to compel them to disclose details of their financial transactions with clients.
National Assembly departmental committee on Finance and National Planning rejected the proposed amendments as was presented in the Finance Bill 2019 in a bid to allow proper discussion on the matter.
The bill is currently in the Second Reading. The committee’s recommendations will be considered when it comes up for Third Reading at which stage the full House can either adopt or reject the proposals.
Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has been opposed to the amendments contained in the Bill which designates its members as reporting entities to the anti-money laundering unit.
The country’s premier bar association said the amendments clauses would affect the principle of advocate-client and legal professional privileges applicable to advocates.
However, the Government has insisted that it is a member of the global Anti-Money Laundering Group which wants everyone to be put under the purview of the anti-money laundering unit.
The team’s recommendations were vehemently opposed during yesterday’s debate by legilstors drawn from the legal profession who termed the amendment as unprocedural.
The matter was raised by George Murugara (Tharaka) and supported by Otiende Amollo (Rarieda) and Nominated MP Jennifer Shamalla.
Murugara said it was unprocedural to use the Finance Bill to ventilate the amendments which can be done in the Advocates Act.
Amollo suggested that the Finance Bill be withdrawn altogether to pave way for the Speaker to make a ruling. But Leader of Minority John Mbadi proposed that the amendment be withdrawn and brought as a stand-alone bill and allow members to dispense off the Finance Bill.
His Majority counterpart Aden Duale said as much as he had issues with the Finance Bill, it would not be possible to withdraw it since it has timelines and must be done away with by September 30.
“As much as we want to raise concerns containing the amendments proposed in the Bill we must put into consideration that it has constitutional timelines,” he said.
The parliamentary committee also rejected the proposed amendment of the bill to repeal Section 33B of the Banking (Amendment) Act which seeks to delete the interest rate capping.
The National Treasury had sought to repeal the rate cap, arguing that it has constricted private-sector credit growth as banks shunned lending to customers deemed risky.
The committee said small and medium-sized businesses have not been accessing credit due to the capping of interest because the Government had increased borrowing in the domestic market.
Gatundu MP, Moses Kuria and the Institute of Certified Public Accountant said they were against the repealing of the interest rates unless the Government stopped borrowing in the domestic market.