'Parliament Committees Cover Up Graft'
Parliamentary committees have been put on the spot following a new report that indicates vested interests and political interference tilt the outcome of their investigations into corruption scandals. According to a report released last evening by the Institute for Social Accountability, some committees have simply been pacifying graft suspects. “Parliamentary committees or commissions of inquiry set up to investigate corruption scandals have sometimes been simply pacifist with no intention of addressing root causes or following through with findings. Parliamentary committees sometimes whitewash issues,” the report states.
The report is titled 'Oversight Role of Parliamen't and has been authored in collaboration with World Vision Kenya and the Centre for Peace and Democracy. “Politics takes centre stage and discussions are in most cases not issue-based. Sectarian interests impede fruitful engagement,” the report adds.
The report states that the structure of government where MPs were also part of the executive has been impacting negatively on oversight due to soft feelings for political colleagues. The report adds that the coalition government, headed by President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga has been “very highly politicized”. It says tracking and follow up the implementation of decisions of the House by the Executive has also been poor. It says that though the formation of the Implementation Committee was meant to correct the problem, the committee has not been given sufficient powers to exercise its mandate and that the executive does not oblige to it.
The report has further indicted MPs saying that some of them lack technical knowhow on matters they tend to investigate. It says 70 per cent of MPs after an election are newcomers who do not prioritise training sessions to enhance their effectiveness. It says training sessions by MPs is poor since the lawmakers only prioritise their allowances. The report recommends that MPs should not serve in more than two committees to ensure that they can focus their attention to oversight in one or two key areas of expertise.
It also says the executive has occasionally failed to give parliament enough information to track oversight. “Government remains secretive over certain dockets such as military operations. While this is for security purposes, it has provided opportunity for the abuse of funds,” the report states. The report has recommended the strengthening of parliamentary committees, particularly Public Accounts Committee, Public Investments Committee, budget committees and research support services.
It has also recommended building the capacity of MPs, parliament’s technical staff serving on parliamentary committees and the research division. The institute also wants creation of a monitoring mechanism for the implementation of committee recommendations, complete with courses of action in case of non-compliance.
Also recommended is establishment of partnerships between committees and other non parliamentary oversight bodies like Public Procurement Oversight Authority, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, Auditor General and the Controller of Budgets. The institute has also recommended the establishment of formal partnerships with members of civil society who have expertise in policy, legislation, public finance and budgetary issues.