Teachers to declare spouse wealth in new wealth declaration

Public officers will disclose all their spouses, their income and assets alongside their dependent children in their wealth declaration forms if a proposed law that seeks to manage conflict of interest in public office is approved.

The Conflict of Interest Bill 2023 also requires public officers to disclose the occupation of their spouse or spouses, income and type of income, financial assets held, debtors, intellectual properties and creditors.

Corruption investigations and court cases involving public officers suggest an emerging pattern of spouses and children being used to hide corruptly acquired wealth to beat the existing laws.

“Public officers are hiding proceeds of corruption in the names of their spouses as legitimate wealth made by their spouses. The disclosure of the spouses’ occupation indicates their possible or potential sources of income,” National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah, who moved the Bill in the House said.

Under the new Bill, a public officer will within 30 days of their appointment be required to fill a form from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) declaring their financial affairs over the one-year period preceding their appointment.

The disclosures shall be updated every two years during the period of service.

Under income, public officers shall list income made by spouses, distinguishing between general and business income.

Disclosures on financial assets meanwhile will cover cash in banks and other financial institutions and bonds, stock and shares, including shares held in cooperatives, private and public companies.

Additionally, the list shall include movable and immovable assets, including houses, land, leasehold interests, buildings, motor vehicles, plant and machinery, water vessels, generating plants and aircraft.

Under debtors, public officers shall list the nature of debts owed to their spouses, including the name of the debtor and outstanding amounts.

For creditors, the disclosure shall include the description of the outstanding facility, the creditor’s name and address, the security charged on the facility and its location, the total amount of advances and the respective outstanding balance.

Similar disclosures will be made for assets and liabilities registered in the name of dependent children.

“The Bill defines situations that amount to conflict of interest and imposes obligations on public officers to avoid situations that would result in conflict of interest,” says the Bill.

“It prohibits public officers from engaging in activities that would cause conflict between private interest and public interest or official duty.”

A public officer will be said to be in conflict of interest in a situation where his or her private interests can be reasonably perceived to impair or influence the public officer’s ability to act objectively in the performance of an official duty or has private interests that could conflict with the duties of public officer in the future.

The requirement is expected to bring the spouses and dependents of public officers under the spotlight of the war on graft.

Public officers are increasingly being charged with graft alongside their spouses.

Among top government officials who have been charged with graft alongside their kin are former governors Okoth Obado, Ferdinand Waititu and Mwangi Wa Iria.

Others are Ketraco Senior Manager for Supply Chain Peter Njehia, Jeremiah Kinyua, a former supervisor at KRA’s domestic tax department, and Nicholas Ochiel, a senior assistant director of valuation at the Ministry of Land and Physical Planning.

Mr Waititu, for instance, was in 2019 charged alongside his wife Susan Ndung’u over a Sh580 million irregular tender.

The EACC will be tasked with the enforcement of the disclosures in addition to other provisions of the Bill upon its passage at both the National Assembly and the Senate.

Law enforcement agencies shall have unrestricted access to the disclosures and compliance reports made by public officers.

Public officers who fail to make the declarations or provide false disclosures shall face fines of between Sh1 million and Sh3 million or an imprisonment term of up to two years.

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