OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL AND DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
PRESS STATEMENT ON PROPOSED CHURCHES LAW
The Office of the Attorney General and Department of Justice is drawn to several news articles that have been appearing in various section of the media regarding the proposed law that is aimed at streamlining the processes pertaining to the registration of religious organizations including churches in Kenya.
The Office of the Attorney General and Department of Justice through the Registrar of Societies wishes to issue certain clarifications;
The matter at hand is the subject of ongoing proceedings at the High Court in Nairobi and should be allowed to reach a natural conclusion. This statement is not in any way intended to be an attempt to influence the said court proceedings. This statement is purely for information purposes as aligned with Article 35 of the Constitution of Kenya as well as the Article 5 (1)(b)(c) and Article 13 of the Access to Information Act 2016 which allows for public institutions to “publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect the public, and for correction of information;
From the outset, none of the Government agencies including the Office of the Attorney General and the Registrar of Societies, have expressed intention to limit the freedom of association, freedom of conscience, religion, belief, opinion, and access to information as these are guaranteed in Articles 32, 35 and 36 of the Constitution of Kenya. Indeed, the intended objective of the proposed amendments to registration of religious organizations is the legitimate foundation and sustainable development of these organizations;
The Registrar of Societies is mandated to register and regulate all societies including churches under the Societies Act Cap 108 of the Laws of Kenya;
The Moratorium stopping the registration of churches and societies was issued on 11th November 2014 by the Attorney General in line with his constitutional mandate to promote, protect and uphold the Rule of Law and defend the public interest. This was necessitated by several reports indicting the officials of several religious institutions and societies of orchestrating certain unconscionable activities that left their congregants at a disadvantage. Such instances included the infamous ‘panda mbegu’ saga. These incidences are within the public domain having been widely reported by the media. Within the same period, many cases of increased radicalization in the regions of Coast, North Eastern and Nairobi continued to be reported. These incidences were of grave concern as they are directly connected to the maintenance of law and order within the country and the assurance of security of the citizenry;
On 14th November 2014, a consultative meeting to deliberate on the existing operations of the faith based institutions with a view of establishing a regulative framework of the religious bodies was held between the Office of the Attorney General and representatives from the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM) and the Hindu Council of Kenya. At the end of the deliberations, the leaders were required to deliberate on the proposed rules with their members and thereafter submit their opinions through memoranda. Many religious bodies submitted their memoranda which formed the basis for yet another workshop that was held at the Kenya School of Government, Nairobi on 31st March 2015 under constitutional requirement of public participation in legislative processes. This process has therefore been open and transparent with the full involvement of the stakeholders from the beginning
During this forum on 31st March 2015, some factions within the representatives of faith based organizations objected to certain provisions, which they opined would lead to over-regulation by the government. Key among these were provisions touched on leadership and integrity, as well accountability on resources entrusted to religious organizations by congregants. The impasse on these provisions is what has led to the moratorium remaining in place;
On the concern for registered societies to submit audited accounts, the Office further informs the public thus:
The requirement that religious organizations submit audited reports is a requirement under the section 30 of the Societies Act (CAP 108), Laws of Kenya.
Every registered Society is required to furnish the Registrar of Societies on an annual basis, on or before the prescribed date, such returns, accounts, and other documents as may be prescribed under Section 30 of the Societies Act (CAP 108). This section should be read together with sections 26, 28 and 29 where every registered society is under obligation to keep one or more books of accounts containing details of monies received and payments made by the society. These records should be availed for inspection to any officer or member and to the Registrar or any person authorized in that behalf. Further every registered society is under obligation to at least once every year, hold a general meeting to which all its members shall be invited, and shall be at the meeting;
During the annual general meetings issues of deliberation include but are not limited to; render a full and true accounts of monies received and paid by the society where such accounts have been audited in accordance with the constitution and rules of the society. Elections of office bearers including committees, trustees and auditors are carried out in accordance with the constitution and rules of the society;
Section 30 therefore contemplates that the accounts referred to under sections 26, 28 and 29 are to be furnished to the Registrar of Societies. It further stipulates that any annual return, account, or other documents that are incomplete in the prescribed manner or form shall be taken not to have been furnished;
Section 30 provides an offence for registered Societies that fail to comply with the provision;
It is also worthwhile to note that under the Schedule to the Act, the provision of annual and periodical audit of accounts is one of the matters that must be provided in the constitution of registered and exempted Societies, as provided under Section 19 of the Societies Act.
As the country awaits the Court’s pronouncement of the suit relating to this matter on the registration of churches, the Office of the Attorney General remains committed to working towards a solution that is in the best interest of all stakeholders and in line with public interest.
Registrar of Societies.