On Thursday 28th April, the Kenya National Assembly remarkably approved the Access to information Bill. The bill allows the public to seek for any information from government, and obligates public servants to make sure they provide that information, or risk bulky fines or jail terms.
In addition, the bill gives government authority to reject any information that will cause substantial harm to its ability of managing the economy or that which involves unwarranted invasion of the privacy of an individual or infringe on commercial interests.
The bill further provides for charges of fine shs500, 000 or 3years in jail against any government official who refuses to grant the information, or hides some of the information or if the public servant is charged exorbitant fees while requesting for information, or gives stale information and refuses to update. In this regard, the public can report the matter to the Commission on Administrative Justice for review and enforcement orders.
In cases of the government whistleblower leaking information to an individual who needs to use in court, work or class, can be argued that the information is already in the public domain and therefore should be released.
There were also last minute changes that MPS made which include Sh1 million fine for anyone who leaks classified information that is likely to jeopardize national security, or that which relates to witness protection. There’s also a provision for a maximum jail term of three years.
Although the bill has been passed by the legislative body of government, there is ongoing deliberation by a legal committee on whether it should be forwarded to the Senate for consideration or move directly to the president for assent.
The bill is being sponsored by the vice chairperson of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, Priscilla Nyokabi, is yet to be handed to President Uhuru Kenyatta for review.