DEVELOPMENTS AT STATE LAW OFFICE AND DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE:
State Law Office and Department of Justice as an enabler for the attainment of Vision 2030 goals has prioritized several high priority projects in the areas of the Implementation of the Bill of Rights, Coordination of Sector Reforms, Political and Economic Governance as well as Policy, Legal and Institutional Reforms.
1. State Law Office and Department of Justice has been articulating eight key areas under the Vision 2030 development agenda of the Government of Kenya. These broad areas include, Implementation of the Constitution and Legal Reforms; Leadership, Ethics and Integrity Reform; Legal Aid and Awareness; Implementation of the Bill of Rights; Governance and the Rule of laws; Political and Economic Governance; National Cohesion and Integration; Strengthening the Criminal Justice System as well as Coordinating the creation of a conductive environment for doing business through the Business Services Registration.
2. The implementation of the Constitution and law reform by the State Law Office collaborating with the Kenya Law Reform Commission (KLRC) has successfully completed an overhaul of all existing legislation to align it to the Constitution. To date a total of 27 bills for the implementation of the Constitution have been finalized. Over 45 Bills for the harmonization of existing laws with the Constitution have been completed as well as 186 pieces of subsidiary legislation in fulfillment of Schedule 5 of the Constitution. 69 legal notices while 95 legal advice and opinions to MDAs have been rendered with another 50 pieces of Model Laws for County Governments developed. 51 legal opinions to government on its obligations on International Law have been rendered as the Government of Kenya continues to ensure its mutual legal assistance obligations with reciprocating states remains sustained.
3. The Leadership, Ethics and Integrity Reform programs aim at encouraging and promoting political good will and leadership in issues relating to legislating, investigating and prosecuting corruption in the country. The Reforms are also aimed at strengthening institutional framework and capacities for ethics and integrity. State Law Office forwarded to the Head of State on the 20th November 2015, the Report of the Task Force on the Review of the Legal, Policy and Institutional Framework for Fighting Corruption in Kenya. The development of the National Ethics and Anti-Corruption Policy has been completed. The Office is fast-tracking the enactment of several laws among them the Parastatal Reforms Bill, Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill, Whistle-blowers Protection Bill, the Kenya Inland Revenue Agency Bill and the Kenya Customs and Border Protection Agency Bill.
4. The Asset Recovery Agency (ARA), a semi-autonomous body within State Law Office has instituted proceedings to freeze the assets of those charged with economic crimes. It has also instituted proceedings to recover the proceeds of those convicted of economic crimes and where necessary has sought international assistance under Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) treaties. ARA has so far frozen Kshs. 158 million in bank accounts; 17 assets in the form of land, vehicles. The ARA is currently in negotiations with the Government of Jersey to repatriate proceeds of crime from corruption cases and is set to engage similar frameworks with peer jurisdictions under MLA arrangements. The concern for political goodwill and leadership has also been bolstered by the enactment of Private sector steered Bribery Act 2016. This, together with several anti-money laundering and tax evasion strategies being developed are aimed at ensuring that corruption investigation and tax enforcement measures are simultaneously pursued while arresting bribery and inducement of officials by members of the public.
5. National Legal Aid Program at the Department of Justice developed its 2013-2017 Strategic Plan and offered legal advice and representation through pro bono lawyers to over 4,420 vulnerable persons. The National Legal Aid Services Act 2016 was recently signed into law; it provides the framework for rolling out the legal aid scheme while building capacity for paralegals, pro bono lawyers and law students. Principally, NALEAP programs aim at enhancing access to justice for the poor, marginalised and vulnerable. This is carried out through the provision of free legal advice, assistance and representation, creating legal awareness training and supporting paralegal work and promoting the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms. NALEAP has been carrying training on ADR among community elders from various counties while creating a pool of 150 professional mediators in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru and Eldoret.
6. Implementation of The Bill of Rights: Sessional Paper No. 3 of 2014 on the National Policy and Action Plan on Human Rights was tabled in Parliament for adoption while 200 public officers were sensitized on the National Policy and Action Plan on Human Rights. The concept papers on The National Implementation Framework to Guide the Development of Policy on Public Participation; and The Development of the 2nd to 5th State Report on the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights were developed. State Law Office prepared and submitted to the Fifth periodic report on the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). The Government of Kenya recently launched the Universal Periodic Review 2nd Cycle Implementation Matrix of 2015- 2019. The Office reported on all core Human Rights Covenants. Meanwhile the Department of Justice is working with the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) to raise awareness on development of common and appropriate human rights indicators to assess realization of human rights.
7. Political and Economic Governance: In promoting economic governance in the country, State Law Office and Department of Justice has been at the forefront in the creation of a conducive environment for doing business in the country. With this in mind, the Automation of Registration Services through E-governance has simplified the registration of business names, companies, and societies in the country making it a one day affair. The Companies Registry commenced name search and reservation services through the on-line e-citizen portal in collaboration with Huduma Centres. The registration of business also incorporates PIN registration, NHIF and NSSF in one process. The gazettment of this was done on 18th March 2016 and is expected to be rolled out once the payment multi-platform allowing a single fee for all transactions is fully automated. The e-citizen platform is also expected to be fully automated soon to facilitate online registration of companies. These interventions are set to improve Kenya’s ease of doing business ranking. Since the operationalization of the Companies Act 2015 on 1st January 2016, some 12,000 new companies have been registered.
8. Council of Legal education (CLE) developed it’s 2014 -2018 Strategic plan and developed draft regulation as provided in the Legal Education Act, 2012. The Kenya School of Law (KSL) revamped the Advocates Training Program, Para-Legal training, Research and Consultancy Services and introduced Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Program. With stakeholders, the Office engaged the KSL to prepare a specialized 9 week training course on legislative drafting targeting both national and county legal practitioners so as to strengthen legislation in the country. The National Crime Research Centre (NCRC) carried out research project activities in the areas of organized criminal gangs and Gender Based Violence (GBV) and published on Election Crimes and Offences, Human Trafficking in Kenya and Delivery of Community Based Sentences in Kenya.
9. As part of strengthening Institutional Reforms, the State Law Office and Department of Justice has been facilitating the adoption of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Mechanisms in place of litigation in addressing commercial disputes. Recognized ADR Mechanisms include arbitration, mediation and conciliation. The Rules of Procedure for Mediation and Arbitration were gazetted on 18th and 24th December 2015 respectively. Code of Conduct and Accreditation Rules for mediators and arbitrators are now in force and accreditation is in progress. In line with this, The Nairobi Centre for International Arbitration continues to be in discussion with the Permanent Court of Arbitration to explore partnerships and collaboration. These developments are aimed at anchoring Kenya as an investment destination of choice in the world. Presently all state departments are required to incorporate mandatory arbitration provisions in all public sector contracts. This is expected to reduce the number of cases presented in court while at the same time reducing the costs incurred and time spent in the litigation process.
10. While the debate on corruption continues to awaken both anger and interest from all Kenyans, State Law Office is mandated to provide legislation that entrenches good governance principles in laws and regulations as well as strengthening institutions. In line with this, the country continues to conclude and enact Mutual Legal Assistance Agreements (MLAs) with several foreign governments. The MLAs allow for the repatriation, extradition and receipt of persons and wealth associated with corruption from foreign countries. State Law Office is the Central Authority in Kenya on Mutual Legal Assistance.
11. The services of the State Law Office as well as ODPP have been decentralized in the country with State Law Office located where all the High Courts are to be found while the ODPP is available in all 116 court stations countrywide with presence in each of the 47 counties. Key services to be decentralized by State Law office to all 47 counties would further strengthen devolution efforts in the counties. These services include the registration of marriages and businesses, legal profession oversight, litigation, advocates complaints as well as the administration of estates and trusts. These services have so far been rolled out in 16 counties are in partnership with the Judiciary and ODPP. The national government coordination through the County Commissioners Offices undertakes services such as registering marriage as well as public trustee functions.
12. The Marriage Act, 2014 was enacted and implementation commenced. The Office fast-tracked the operationalization and cleanup of data through the re-licensing ministers of faith, issuance of new generation marriage books and training of marriage officials, lawyers and religious institutions on the new marriage laws. Marriage officers in all counties as well as members of the public were also sensitized on the Act. The Registrar of Marriages has recently called for submission of considerations for proposals in the Islamic, Asian and traditional marriages to be adopted in the Marriage Act.