Who between Treasury and Committee of Experts is telling the truth about funds for civic education on the Proposed Constitution?
The CoE and Justice Ministry accuse Treasury, which is under Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, of sitting on the final tranche and argue the public sensitisation programme is stuck in the mud. Uhuru and his Treasury Permanent Secretary Mr Joseph Kinyua insist they have released all the money due to the CoE and there would not be a single coin more.
Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka (second right) and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta during a ‘Yes’ Campaign rally at Kenol, Maragwa District, Sunday. [PHOTO: VPPS/ STANDARD]
As the two blocs row, the deadline for the 30-day civic education is drawing closer and as a pollster reported last week, over 30 per cent of Kenyans have not read, leave alone understood, the Proposed Constitution.
On the unofficial campaign blitz, politicians are whipping up emotions by giving their own interpretations, some of which are grossly inaccurate, exaggerated and outright lies.
On Saturday, Kinyua said in a press statement that he had released the last batch of Sh100 million meant for civic education. But CoE claims the Sh100 million referred to, was brought to them as a donation from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Justice Ministry.
CoE Executive Director Ekuru Aukot says Sh90 million was donated by the PM’s office and Sh10 million from the Justice Ministry.
Uhuru, who has been accused by some politicians of delaying the funds has come out fighting saying Treasury has released all the money approved by Parliament for CoE at the start of the review process.
Speaking at a public rally to whip up support for the new law in Makutano yesterday Uhuru denied withholding funds for civic education. "All amounts passed by Parliament have been released. If more money is needed it will require parliamentary approval."
As the row over the money rages on, an opinion poll released on Saturday shows civic education has reached only five per cent of Kenyans.
The poll showed that only 61 per cent of Kenyans have read the Proposed Constitution with only about a week of the one-month period meant for civic education left. This means majority of Kenyans head to the polls without the benefit of being educated on the contents of the draft.
But despite Uhuru’s stand that funds have been released to the committee, angry members of the Cabinet are now accusing him of allegedly frustrating the final stages of the constitution review process.
Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo, Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi, Assistant Ministers Peter Kenneth, William Cheptumo and Richard Onyonka, as well as Gichugu MP Martha Karua are accusing Uhuru of ‘sabotaging’ the process.
PSC Chairman Abdikadir Mohammed and civil society demanded that CoE be facilitated to carry out civic education. The civil society groups are threatening to stage a sit-in at Treasury until the funds were released. "Uhuru Kenyatta should stop frustrating the constitution-making process for the sake of the few rich who are against the passing of the new law," said retired Presbyterian Reverend Timothy Njoya.
Njoya who addressed a news conference at a Nairobi hotel in the company of other civil society leaders challenged President Kibaki to come clean on why the CoE was being denied funding.
"Uhuru is clearly frustrating the process since he wants to protect the rich who are against this country getting a new constitution. The minister seems to be serving the interests of the rich few at the expense of the majority poor whom the new constitution will serve," claimed Njoya.
Mutula said the assertion by Kinyua all money due to CoE had been released were not true.
"While presenting this year’s budget almost a year ago, Uhuru announced that Sh2 billion had been set aside for Agenda Four Items. Where is that money?" demanded Mutula.
Mutula added: "If Treasury continues to be intransigent, we will ask donors, including the business community, to contribute to civic education."
Mutula added that the Interim Independent Constitutional Dispute Resolution Court was also starved of funding. He said the judges of the court were paid salaries only two weeks ago after the foreigners in the panel threatened to quit.
"Agenda Four Items are being frustrated across the board by Treasury because even after the President and Prime Minister asked Treasury increase the allowances for the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, Treasury has refused," Mutula added.
Mudavadi read mischief in the reluctance by Treasury to release the funds. "It is unfortunate. Treasury knew all along that that money was to be required. It has not been taken by surprise. It must rethink its position as a matter of urgency," argued Mudavadi.
Karua said the move by Treasury amounted to sabotage of the entire process. "That amounts to sabotage of the process. Money for printing should not be taken from the civic education kitty. These are two different functions," said the former Justice Minister.
CoE Chairman Nzamba Kitonga called on Kenyans to remain alert over concerted efforts by a clique he termed "enemies of the new constitution" busy trying to confuse their focus on a new document.
He concurred with Aukot on the CoE’s frustrations by the Government. "We have been pleading with Treasury to give us money but it has flatly refused to release any to us. All they tell us is to talk to the line ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs," lamented Kitonga
Abdikadir said despite the lack of funds for conducting civic education, Kenyans had fully been engaged and are aware of what they will be voting on. "Kenyans have been involved and engaged, but I also agree that civic education must be undertaken to counter propaganda. The Government must facilitate CoE to carry out civic education before the referendum," said the Mandera Central MP.
Cheptumo said it was a sad day for Kenya after Treasury declared it would not release any funds for a constitutional process adding that it amounts to an illegality of the highest order to subject Kenyans to a referendum some might not be fully appraised on.
Konoin MP Julius Kones and Chepalungu’s Isaac Ruto — who are in the ‘No’ camp — said even without the funds from the Treasury, Kenyans, were already aware of the contents of the Proposed Constitution through enlightenment by their leaders.
"Kenyans are aware largely of what is in that document. They know that their leaders cannot mislead them and they will use that information to vote given that no money is forthcoming," said Dr Kones.
Kituo Cha Sheria Director Priscilla Nyokabi said it was disturbing Treasury would not release the funds.
Ikolomani MP Bonny Khalwale said the President should issue a statement explaining why Treasury was "openly sabotaging the process".
Dr Khalwale, who is also the Public Accounts Committee Chairman, said his committee would soon seek explanations from Uhuru on how Sh2 billion set aside for the review exercise was spent.