The country’s interim independent electoral commission (IIEC) says using public servants to campaign for the proposed constitution ahead of referendum on 4th August 2010 is illegal.
The commission has consequently asked the head of public service Francis Muthaura to immediately withdraw permanent secretaries (PSs) and senior government officials from campaigns.
Chairman Issack Hassan told journalists on Thursday 22nd July 2010, that PSs and the provincial administrators should stop taking sides in the debate and instead ensure peace and sobriety. Hassan said the public officers ethics Act prohibits civil servants from participating in politics.
‘I know there might be different justification by the government but we think they should not participate in any electoral process or in the referendum campaigns,’ he said adding that the officers should stick to their core mandate. ‘They should continue offering services to Kenyans across the board irrespective of which camp they belong to.’
Muthaura had written to the PSs and accounting officers requesting them to head to their home districts and campaign for the draft. District commissioners had been given the task of convening meetings of opinion leaders.
The letter dated July 15 read in part: ‘Following the decision of the meeting of permanent secretaries which was approved by both his Excellency the President and the Rt. Hon, Prime Minister, you are authorized to travel to your respective regions between 12th July and 3rd August 2010 to participate in civic education and mobilising support for the new Constitution before the referendum.’
The letter asked district commissioners to invite at least 200 leaders to the PSs’ meetings. ‘Permanent secretaries may be accompanied by senior government officials and high ranking private professionals from their respective areas to strengthen presence.’
The head of the civil service also led a delegation of permanent secretaries to Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s home recently, where they were told not to fear publicly backing support for the draft law.
‘We met this morning and the resolution of the commission is that the officers should not be involved in the campaigns,’ said the IIEC Chairman. ‘This involvement of government officers can be used by the No camp to contest the outcome of the results,’ said Hassan.