A bill seeking to amend the antigraft law and whose passage will see bribe-givers for the first time along with the bribe takers fined by law, has entered a crucial lawmaking process at the East African Legislative Assembly .
The East African Community (EAC) Integrity and Anti-Corruption Bill, 2019 was introduced in the Assembly as a Private Members Bill and was read for the first time on February 27, 2019. According to Kenya’s EAC legislative assembly member Ali Fatuma, the bill is now on its second reading – a critical stage that will determine the bill’s fate – and whose other aim is to tame illicit financial flows and outflows within the region.
“The Bill is now on its second reading and our hope is that the Parliament reconvenes soon enough and have it as one of the key topics of discussion. It is now time to ring the crisis bell on corruption,” said Fatuma while addressing journalists in Nairobi, reported Kenyan publication People Daily.
Second reading is the first opportunity for MPs to debate the main principles of the Bill. It usually takes place no sooner than two weekends after first reading.
During the second reading debate, members express their opinions about the principles of the bill. At the conclusion of the debate, a vote is taken on the question “that this bill be now read a second time.” If the House disagrees, then the bill is defeated.
Once a Bill has been introduced, it has to pass through the parliamentary process to become law. This involves a first and second reading in the East African parliament, followed by the committee stage, at which each clause and schedule of the Bill is examined.
The passage of the bill delivers another telling blow against corruption, marking an important stage in the series of incessant, decisive steps taken by the regional members to clean up the system emphasising on transparency and accountability on public resources and individuals entrusted.
Indeed, the bill will seek to among other factors attempt to curb corruption, bribery, theft and tax evasion in the region whose judicial systems – another integral part in the fight against such ills, have been under severe scrutiny.
Instances of judge bribery are common in countries like Kenya, Uganda and Burundi, with their court systems always bending over backwards to the demands and intimidation of their executives.
If the bill passes EALA, it would then have to be adopted by national Parliaments in Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and South Sudan.
From the annual corruption perception index of Transparency International, Rwanda is the only place in the region where graft appears to be under control. Even here, there is longstanding concern that the fight targets low level officials and ordinary people, who are commonly called “small fish”.