MPs to debate rules on campaign funds

MPs will now consider draft regulations seeking to implement the elections campaign funds limits.

Yesterday, Majority Whip Emmanuel Wangwe tabled the draft Election Campaign Financing Regulations that had been deferred in 2017, which seeks to cap electoral campaign spending by aspirants. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) had made proposals to repeal the Elections Campaign Financing Act, 2013.

However, the National Assembly Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC) has sought to put breaks on the IEBC proposals in the Elections Campaign Financing (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and with time running out, MPs could be compelled to make do with the 2013 Act.

IEBC has until August 9 to gazette the regulations. Yesterday, Speaker Justin Muturi said with strict constitutional timelines to have the regulations in place 12 months to the polls, it might not be practical for the House to pass the same.

“You will agree with me that these are not just ordinary regulations, which may be the reason Parliament provided that they be submitted to the House in draft form for approval before they are published in the Gazette,” the Speaker told MPs.

He argued that Sections 12, 18 and 19 of the Act give IEBC powers to set limits for contributions and expenditure for candidates and political parties at least 12 months before the elections. “Even as the Act stipulates the timelines necessary for the approval of the said regulations, the Statutory Instruments Act provides for the ultimate process and procedure for consideration of regulations,” the Speaker said.

Muturi informed members that the regulations were crucial as they are expected to provide for, among other things, the spending limits for the different elections; guidelines for expenditure rules for political parties and independent candidates; and the manner in which contributions may be made.

The Speaker directed the committee on Delegated Legislation chaired by Tiaty MP William Kamket to consider the same.

“I urge the committee to expedite the process of consideration of the draft regulations and table its report soonest to enable the House to undertake the necessary approval processes in good time,” he said.

Despite the strict timelines, the House is yet to consider the IEBC Bill as well as the draft Bill by the CIOC.

Monday will be exactly one year to the 2022 polls. The National Assembly’s next sitting is August 10 and IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati had warned that the regulations will only be implemented once MPs approve the same within the set timelines.

The MPs, through the Election Campaign Financing (Amendment) Bill, 2021 sponsored by the committee led by Ndaragua MP Jeremiah Kioni, want the requirement to establish a candidate’s expenditure scrapped.

Kieni MP Kanini Keega (left) with Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The Kioni Bill wants to repeal nine sections and amend four, which include proposed establishment of a committee with three members. The IEBC wants identity of the donor revealed, while MPs want this to be confidential and only made public in case of a probe.

“A political party shall not accept donation if it is not permissible, or the party is unable to ascertain the identity of the donor,” reads the IEBC proposed Bill.

On regulations on campaign expenses and restriction of donors, the electoral commission wants to ensure accountability.

“No campaign expenses shall be incurred by or on behalf of the political party unless it is incurred with the authority of the Treasury, deputy treasury or the person with the authority of either of the two. A person who without reasonable excuse to incur any expenses contrary to the law commits an offence.”

The law requires details on sources of the contributions, including donations in cash or in-kind received and the disclosure done at least 20 days before the nomination day and at least 20 days before the polling day.

A candidate or a political party that fails to disclose the funds or donations shall be disqualified.

Any political party or candidate flouting the regulations is liable to a fine not exceeding Sh2 million or a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years or to both.

The move by the committee to amend the law seeks to counter the IEBC proposals.

“The objective of the Bill is to amend the Act, 2013 to align its provisions with the Elections Act, 2011 and further propose amendments that will enable its implementation as the current provisions do not take cognizant of current socio-economic and political structures, which has hindered the full implementation of the law,” reads the Bill.

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

In the parent law, the contributions or donations received by a candidate, political party or a referendum committee shall be accompanied by the specific details of the harambee including the venue, date and organiser of the funds drive and a record of all ‘individual contributions or donations collected in the prescribed form.

“Contributions and donations given by a person or organisation under this section shall not, at any time, exceed the limit specified in the Gazette Notice published.

The law states that the committee shall not receive and keep anonymous contributions or support, whether in cash or in kind, or contributions from an illegal source as specified.

“A candidate or party, political party or referendum committee that receives funds shall, within 14 days of the receipt, report such receipt and submit the contribution to the commission,” reads the law.

The Kioni Bill seeks to define what monies intended for public use is as well as donations. On spending limit, the MPs want to abolish the cap on maximum threshold of money a candidate, political party or referendum committee may spend during campaigns as proposed by the IEBC in 2016 when implementation of the law was deferred.

A presidential candidate is allowed to spend up to a maximum of Sh5.2 billion, governors, senators and women representatives Sh433 million while MPs a maximum of Sh33.4 million.

For MCAs, the IEBC capped spending at Sh10.3 million, with exception in some areas.

“The law cannot be implemented in its current form. It’s just impossible for IEBC with its skeleton staffing to monitor compliance with the law across the country,” said Opondo Kaluma, CIOC vice chair.

He added, “It is also unreasonable to expect a candidate for a political seat to hand over his personal money to a committee of people to run for him as if it is public funds.”

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