Why Civil servants will jailed for doing business with government

Public servants who engaged in business with national and county governments would soon be barred from holding any public office and convicted to jail , if parliamentarians approve recommended changes to the law.

This after a private citizen, Tony Watima, petitioned parliamentarians to enact a law barring public officers from conducting any profitable business with government and its state agencies.

In his petition, Watima wants government workers doing business with government entities criminalised to all civil servants.

The existing laws, he said, have not adequately addressed this challenge, resulting in increased cases of corruption  at both levels of government.

READ MORE: EACC: Counties choking devolution with corruption

Essentially, the petitioner wants to amend Duncan Ndegwa 1970 report, the then chairman of the Central Bank that gave leeway to civil servants to do business with the government, a position bow being contested.

Traditionally, before the implementation of the report, government workers were paid low salaries and had long careers.

But that changed with the Ndegwa Report, which some believe had a preconceived intention to allow civil servants to engage in business while on the government payroll.

The 398-page report, a copy of which is online, was presented to President Jomo Kenyatta in May 1971, and while known for salaries, it also looked at performance and management issues in the civil service and government.

But the petitioner has proposed sweeping changes that if adopted and enacted will totally outlaw any public servant from doing business with the government.

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The petitioner in his plea to the lawmakers noted that the civil servants have in most cases not acted in best interest but have largely engaged in perpetuating graft by awarding tenders to themselves and their cronies.

“There have been numerous incidences in Kenya where public officers make decisions on matters in which they, either directly or indirectly, have a personal interest,” the petition by Mr Watima reads.

And when it came up for debate in the senate yesterday, a majority of the senators admitted that public servants doing business with the government are to blame for runaway corruption.

Senators Moses Wetangula (Bungoma), Boni Khalwale (Kakamega), Judith Sijeny (Nominated Senator) called for punitive and stiffer measures to any public officer and state officers who includes politicians found to be illegally doing business with the government.

READ MORE: EACC yet to investigate State official in NYS saga

Mr Wetangula said junior officers at both national and county government have amassed wealth way above their annual incomes within a short while through dishonest means.

“We don’t want to criminalise business but a conflict of interest must be looked at. Even politicians are using their influence to run for public office to unfairly secure business,” Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula told senators.

“The law as it now does address conflict of interest within the public service,” he added.

READ MORE: New law to lock out corrupt directors of private companies from elective posts

But Kakamega Senator Bony Khalwale was more specific put the blame squarely on the Ndegwa commission report of the 1970s for the widening gap between the rich and poor.

The senator regretted that the report paved way for civil servants to take advantage of their close proximity to senior government officials to amass wealth while still on the government payroll.

“This must change if we were to have a country where all Kenyans can lead a better life as opposed to few rich people at the expense of the majority. Existing laws not adequate,” Dr Khalwale said.

READ MORE: EACC: A total of Sh1.8bn lost in NYS scandal

In his plea to the senate, the petitioner said by enacting such a law would allow public officers to freely make government decisions based on public interest without undue influence from their own personal interests.

“There is a pattern of unchallenged abuse of power by both appointed and elected public officers taking official action or making policy recommendations in areas where they are investors or have personal interests,” Mr Watima noted.

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