The Star (Kenya) - - Politics -

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.

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