CCK to be disbanded and replaced by independent body

The Kenyan government is to replace the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) with a new, independent, corporate body free of government influence, in line with the country’s constitution.

The Independent Communications Commission of Kenya Bill 2011 has entered the its final draft stage and will be ready for public debate on October 30. It has been prepared by the Ministry of Information and Communications.

The bill proposes to end government influence on the regulator. The CCK chairman is currently appointed directly by the President, and there are four permanent secretaries on the board.

Ministry permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo has confirmed that if parliament passed the act before the expiration of the contracts of the current CCK leadership, they would receive severance packages. Director General Francis Wangusi was appointed to his post in August with new chairman Ben Gituku appointed just last month.

The independence of the CCK has been called into question recently over the issue of cutting mobile termination rates. The government-appointed board members deferred the decision for fear of going against the President, who had called for a freeze on the rates.

Independence is at the heart of the new draft bill, putting emphasis on the avoidance of conflict of interest. Section 34(5) of the 2010 constitution reads: “Parliament shall enact legislation that provides for the establishment of a body, which shall- (a) be independent of control by government, political interests or commercial interests.”

Those found guilty of conflicts of interest would face heavy punishments, including five-year jail terms and hefty fines.

“A Commissioner may not vote at, attend or in any other manner participate in, any meeting or hearing of the Commission, nor be present at the place where the meeting is held if in relation to an application relating to a license, he or she or his or her family member is a director, member or business partner or associate of or has an interest in the business of the applicant,” the bill reads.

The new proposal is for seven commissioners elected through a competitive interview process by the Public Service Commission, with the President giving final approval. Each commissioner will have a specific role, while the Director General will have a more administrative function.

According to the draft bill: “The Commission shall establish its own administration and appoint a suitably qualified and experienced person designated as the Director-General to the Commission as the chief executive officer of the Commission for the purpose of assisting the Commission, subject to the Commission’s direction and control.”

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