Public funding of political parties in Kenya lacks public scrutiny

Public funding of political parties in Kenya lacks transparency and accountability standards that are critical for democracy. Neither the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties (ORPP) nor the political parties, make the reports on utilisation of the funds, publicly accessible on their websites for easy scrutiny by taxpayers and other democracy stakeholders.

Section 24 of the Political Parties Act (PPA), 2011 establishes the Political Parties Fund administered by the Registrar. The fund is distributed to eligible political parties based on legal criteria. The Political Parties Act (PPA), section 26, outlines how political parties must utilize public funds and how they must be accounted for. 

But this is not really followed in practice and the sanction mechanisms are also weak. Democratic principles demand that all political parties must be transparent in terms of providing information related to political parties’ activities and financial reporting. Political finance transparency plays a key role in safeguarding the integrity of political processes and democracy institutions

In this regard, Secrets Known expects the Registrar to post on the website of ORPP information on public funding including the amounts disbursed to each of the political eligible political parties. 

In the same vein, the Registrar and Auditor General should publish on their respective websites reports on utilisation of the public funds by political parties so that the public can tell whether or not Sector 26 of the PPA is being followed. 

According to Alliance for Finance Monitoring (ACFIM) – the pan-African political finance watchdog, at the moment it is difficult for pro-democracy civil society organisations or the media to ascertain that monies allocated to registered political parties or coalition political parties are actually used for purposes compatible with section 26 of the PPA.

Section 16 of the Political Parties (Funding) Regulations, 2018, gives the Registrar discretion to publish reports submitted by political parties in such a form and manner as may be determined by the Registrar. Secrets Known noted that there is reluctance on the part of the Registrar to do so.

Lack of public knowledge on how funds are distributed, used, and reported, creates suspicion that perhaps the funds are not managed in accordance with the internationally acceptable principles of public financial management.

The United Nations Convention against Corruption outlines the basic concept of political finance transparency in article 7.3, which calls for states to ‘consider taking appropriate legislative and administrative measures to enhance transparency in the funding of candidatures for elected public office and, where applicable, the funding of political parties’.

Kenya has 90 fully registered political parties with Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party as the most recent party to be recorded. Azimio’s certificate of registration was issued on April 21, 2022.

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