Uhuru signs law targeting graft in private sector

Saturday December 24 2016

President Uhuru Kenyatta signing into law the Bribery Bill 2016 together with six other Bills at State House, Nairobi. PHOTO | PSCU

President Uhuru Kenyatta signing into law the Bribery Bill 2016 together with six other Bills at State House, Nairobi. PHOTO | PSCU 

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The government has officially roped private companies and individuals into the war on corruption after assenting to a law requiring them to participate in taming graft.

By the stroke of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s pen, private entities will now face stiff penalties if they allow their senior managers to bribe, receive inducements bribes or witness a bribery incident and look the other way.

The Bribery Act 2016 specifically criminalises corruption anywhere on Kenyan soil, but it is the first law to target private firms who for long have been outside the ring of graft purge.

The new law brings in penalties like directors of companies being barred from serving in any other company for up to a decade, being banned from contesting in elections and being fined up to five times the bribe received or given.

The law first introduced by Majority Leader Aden Duale is the brainchild of contributions from the private sector and government officials, following years of debate on what role the private entities can play.

While it was agreed that these entities participate in giving bribes especially in procuring government deals, there wasn’t specific laws that forced them to take part in the fight.

Already, there are laws that forbid corruption such as the Public Officer Ethics Act of 2003, the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act of 2003 and the Leadership and Integrity Act 2012. But they all target public or state officers.

“The principal objective of the Bribery Act 2016 is to extend the fight against corruption to the private sector by equally criminalising bribery in the sector,” said a statement from State House after the President signed the Bill into law.

“It provides for specific requirements that private entities must have in place in the prevention of bribery,” the statement says.

The Act provides for penalties of up to Sh5 million for anyone found giving or receiving bribes or be jailed for ten years.

In addition, Courts will have leeway to decide whether to add more penalties if “quantifiable gain” to the suspect or “quantifiable loss” to the victim is proven.

They may include fines of up to five times the gain you received by taking part in corruption, your property being confiscated or you being blacklisted from serving in any office in Kenya.

It also requires anyone who witnesses corruption to report to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission within 24 hours of seeing it. That means if you saw a police officer receiving a sweetener to let a speeding motorist go, you must report him to the EACC.

“A state officer, a public officer or any other person who despite being aware of or suspicious of the commission of an offence under this Act, fails to report the act to the Commission within the specified period commits an offence,” it says.

This also means that it will be illegal to bribe a foreign official to gain a service and it will be illicit to accept or request a financial or other type of favour in exchange for service.

Whether this law will be fully implemented remains to be the next challenge, especially since existing laws have had little fruit in jailing the culprits.