Odhiambo & Odhiambo Advocates

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) says the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) should obtain documents detailing the 'chicken gate' scandal investigations from the UK courts and use them to bring those who received corrupt payments in the country to book.

Speaking during a tour of the Milimani Law Courts by Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, Chairman Eric Mutua stated that the information on the fiasco should not be ignored but be used to bolster the probe of the individuals named.

Two executives of British firm Smith and Ouzman Ltd were sentenced to a total of five years after being convicted for making corrupt payments in individuals in various countries including Kenya to win business for the company.

"Probably the starting point is ... to obtain the relevant proceedings and the decision from the court to be able to find what is the correlation between the evidence which was tendered in the UK court and what they have in their investigations because I understand that they are still conducting theirs," Mutua said.

Mutua explained that this is the only way to ensure that integrity is maintained in all government institutions.

"I believe if indeed there is evidence from the UK court to the effect that these monies were paid to the persons who have been mentioned as bribes, then definitely there is a case that can be made out against those persons and I believe that prosecutions should be done," he stated.

His sentiments were echoed by Narc Kenya Leader Martha Karua who emphasised the need for all institutions to uphold high standards.

"It is really very shameful the way we are trying to ignore this issue. IEBC is one of the critical institutions supporting democracy in this country. I am happy that they have a new CEO and I want to tell him that we wish him well and tell him that even a single person in an institution can make a difference. The position he holds is very important," she indicated.

Karua called on the new IEBC Chief Executive Officer Ezra Simiyu to do his best to revolutionalise the Commission in a bid to bring about change.

"After all he is the Chief Executive. How can we ignore the evidence that has convicted in a commonwealth system which is our judicial system and you know whenever we have problems in Kenya, the government is always inviting Scotland Yard. How come we are now ignoring that evidence and do we intend to sweep it under our feet?" she posed.

She strongly advocated for the government to take action on this and other similar issues.

"We need to act on these matters now, from chicken gate to conclusively acting on the land grabbing saga, not only in Karen, Lang'ata and the various public institutions. It should never appear like its is a field day for thugs in Kenya at this point in time. It should be made very expensive to break the law in this country."

A London court found two executives of Smith and Ouzman Ltd guilty of paying out bribes dubbed 'chicken' to Kenyan electoral and examinations executives.

The Southwark Crown Court convicted the former chairman of the firm Christopher Smith, and his son Nick Smith of making payments totaling Sh50 million to win printing contracts at Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) and the defunct Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC).

Bribes to public officials in Kenya, Ghana, Mauritania, and Somali amounted to 780,000 dollars and the offenses occurred between November 2006 and December 2010.

Nairobi — Since Kenya began transitioning to a devolved system of government in 2013, newly formed county governments have been engaged in near-constant squabbles with the national government, threatening to undermine the devolution process.

Most of the conflicts spring from differing interpretations of the functions and powers granted to the two levels of government under Kenya's 2010 constitution, said Law Society of Kenya (LSK) chairperson Eric Mutua.

To help county assembly members increase efficiency and improve relations with their counterparts at the national level, the LSK formed a committee that will work with counties to draft legislation that is in harmony with the constitution, Mutua said.

The LSK Devolution Legislation Committee, inaugurated November 3rd, comprises 11 national government representatives from the former provinces and 89 lawyers representing all 47 counties.

"These members were selected from a group of lawyers who showed interest in working with county assemblies on pro-bono terms so that they can help them in crafting laws and address legal challenges that counties might face, with a view of reducing rivalry on interpretation of the law between the national and county governments," Mutua told Sabahi.

Many counties have been passing poor quality legislation which is affecting their performance, said committee chairperson David Mereka, who heads a law firm in Nairobi.

"Some counties just cut and paste clauses of laws from other counties and turn them into bills, passing them without making even a single amendment," he told Sabahi.

For example, he said, legislation related to burial costs that contained clauses copied from a Nairobi County bill passed in Nakuru County, even though the county clearly could not command the same rates.

The language of bills that are passed is often below par, he added, noting that most counties have not passed many laws other than budget related legislation.

Legal training and assistance:

"One of LSK's objectives is to protect and assist the public in Kenya in all matters touching or related to law," Mereka said. "This is the reason we have decided to intervene. We will co-ordinate and streamline legislative drafting at the county government [level] as well as offer training to county attorneys in order for them to have the necessary legal skills."

"The committee aims to support county governments in making laws that are in line with the constitution and that promote public participation," he said, adding that many counties have passed laws without public participation and support.

As part of its mandate, the committee also will help to mediate and track co-operation between the national and county governments.

"The committee is tasked to advise governments [at both levels] on legislative and policy matters relating to the transfer of functions between the national and county governments as well as point out lacuna in the devolution system with respect to [writing] legislation," he said.

Even though security falls under the purview of the national government, the committee will propose legislation that seeks to establish an enforcement arm at the county level in order to deal with local security threats, Mereka said.

"It is hoped that a properly developed legislative system will result in stability, development, security, prosperity and accountability in the devolution process," he added.

Preventing legislative failures:

The new committee will help to address the teething problems that have beset counties when writing laws, said lawyer Gad Awuondo Otieno, who serves as a legislative adviser for Nairobi County Assembly.

"The drafting of laws is a specialised area and most counties have been lacking experts in this field that ensure they are coming up with laws that meet the threshold for implementation," he told Sabahi. "Some [county laws] have been outright unconstitutional."

Legislative failures at the county level include the imposition of duplicate taxes which are already paid to the national government, Otieno said, adding that the committee can help facilitate a better understanding of the responsibilities of each level of government so jurisdictions are respected.

"For instance, all counties made laws to govern the licensing of betting and gaming industries in their respective counties, but the national government has since refused to cede the control of the gaming [industry]," he said.

"This has been a cause of major conflict between the national and county governments and we hope that this will be addressed through the committee."

Harmonising, Professionalising Law-Making:

Another area of contention has been the imposition of levies and fees on trucks carrying cargo between counties, said Kenya Maritime Authority Director General Nancy Karigithu.

"Sixteen counties [with partial jurisdiction over] Mombasa-Nairobi and Nairobi-Busia highways were planning to introduce levies on all cargo passing [through] their territories and every county was coming up with its own rate without consulting or looking at its impact," she told Sabahi.

"We hope the committee will bring in moderation and also make sure that laws on levies are harmonised so as they do not have a negative impact on cost of doing business," she said.

For his part, Nairobi County Assembly minority whip Hashim Kamau also welcomed the formation of the committee and the work it will undertake.

"It is a welcome move that will not only professionalise law-making but also make sure that we do not have laws that pit counties against each other, for instance laws that subject cross-county businesses to double taxation," he told Sabahi.

Many counties initially lacked experts in their assemblies to guide their respective legislative agendas, he said.

"Luckily for Nairobi we have not had those troubles, but we hope with the setting in of the committee members we will be able to better our functions," he said.

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