HERE is no doubt in my mind that wealth declaration should be mandatory. In the first place, the law requires it. This is a matter of transparency – Article 10 of the Constitution to be precise, and also, I think, the Public Officer’s Ethics Act.
There is adequate law that requires you declare your wealth because the declaration of wealth is not just a formality. It is supposed to be a formula for trying to see whether you disproportionately get richer upon ascending to high public office, compared to where you were before you got this office.
Secondly, you are not supposed to be secretive about this. The question of privacy here does not apply when you aspire to public office. You must develop a thick skin.
The only way the Ethics and AntiCorruption Commission would be able to detect corruption would be by people declaring their wealth as they enter office, so that others are able to discern any changes in lifestyle.
Let me give an example. I remember when we were in university, we would expect our student leaders to declare and explain their rapidly increasing weight – if indeed there was such an increase. For it had been noticed that some student leaders very abruptly ballooned in weight, just as soon as they were elected to represent us.
We, as students, felt we had a right to ask how it was possible that this man who had been so slim before suddenly gained weight virtually overnight.
And in much the same way, Kenyans now have a right to enquire about the wealth of their leaders. Where has all this additional wealth come from since this man rose to occupy a key public office? And we can only know of this additional wealth if we knew what he had as he entered office.
If such a man chose to remain a private citizen, then that would be a different matter. Even if such a private citizen balloons overnight, nobody has a right to enquire because he is not in a public office. There will naturally be speculation and people will be inquisitive as to how this man has been able to grow so rich so quickly.
But insofar as he is not a public officer, he would not be required to grow that “hard skin” over accusations that his wealth may not have been obtained by acceptable means.