At last, there are official caps on campaign spending in a political system traditionally awash with money, both legal and illicit. Enforcement is another issue.
Presidential candidates will be allowed to spend no more than Sh5.2 billion in their 2017 campaigns, the Star can authoritatively report.
Nairobi gubernatorial candidates will be allowed to spend up to Sh432 million.
These totals are contained in strict spending limits set by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and obtained exclusively by the Star.
The regulations are to be gazetted on Friday, effectively becoming law.
The strict regulations aim to create a level playing field to eliminate voter bribery, curb misuse of public resources and money from illegal sources.
The Election Campaign Financing Act is the Kenya’s first law to compel parties and candidates pre-election to fully disclose their poll funding sources.
It is estimated that in 2013, leading presidential contenders spent Sh10-Sh20 billion each.
In every election, politicians have been splashing billions in brazen runaway voter bribery.
However, some analysts have dismissed the spending limits, saying the IEBC lacks the spine to implement them.
“IEBC is not in a position to give guidelines on anything because because it is just another small weak body, so vulnerable and so volatile. IEBC is subservient to the presidency and to Parliament. Commissioners tremble before MPs,” political analyst Benji Ndolo told the Star. Ndolo is founder and director of the Kenya-based Organisation of National Empowerment.
“Kenya is pretending to be a democracy and imitating things they cannot implement,” he said.
In setting spending limits, the electoral agency considered population of an electoral area, geographical size and other factors.
Expert comment : A step in the right direction for 2017 general elections
In Kakamega and Kiambu where wealthy, influential politicians are facing off for the governor’s seat, candidates will be allowed to spend no more than Sh228 million and Sh223 million, respectively.
However, governors, senators and woman representatives in the same county have the same spending limits.
Kiambu Governor William Kabogo, Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko and Governor Evans Kidero are among next year’s gubernatorial candidates with virtually bottomless pockets.
According to spending limits, parliamentary candidates will be required to spend much less.
This ranges from Sh2.2 million in Lamu East to a staggering Sh33.4 million in Mandera South.
However, each of the 290 constituencies and 1,450 wards countrywide have their own spending limits.
For instance, candidates for MCA in Turbi, Marsabit, are limited to a paltry Sh66,000.
However, candidates for a similar office in Elwak South, Mandera county, can spend up to Sh10 million.
Expenditure will be monitored by the IEBC from February 8, 2017, till the August 8 polls.
The law requires a candidate, candidate’s agent and a party campaign finance committee to open a campaign financing account, details to be submitted to the IEBC.
The electoral agency will monitor how money is trickling or gushing into and out of the accounts.
A political party can only receive a maximum of Sh3 billion from a single source.
However, the total contribution limit for a party within the six-month period is capped at Sh15 billion.
According to the breakdown of presidential campaign spending limits, contenders can spend no more than Sh869 million on advertising and media.
It’s almost the same for transportation.
Leading presidential contenders have acquired new choppers and fleets of high-end, high-tech vehicles ahead of the titanic duel but fueling and servicing are costly.
IEBC estimate presidential candidates should spend a maximum Sh173 million on campaign agents, Sh144 million on administration and Sh625 million on expenses such as pollsters.
The regulations are meant to operationalise the stringent Election Campaign Financing Act — which MPs refused to adopt before the 2013 polls — with tacit support of the political class.
The new spending regime, which IEBC pledges to strictly implement, could see tycoons in trouble for spreading around illegal largess.
The most severe penalty is disqualification from running.
“Attention of parties is drawn to provisions of Section 18(7) of the Election Campaign Financing Act 2013 that a political party which exceeds the prescribed spending limits and fails to report this fact to the Commission commits an offense,” part of the regulations states.
Already, political heavyweights, including President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition chief Raila Odinga are amassing multi-billion-shilling war chests.
A person convicted of an offense under the Election Campaign Financing Act, where no penalty is provided, could spend as long as five years in prison.
“Attention of candidates and political parties is drawn to Sections 23 and 24 of the Election Campaign Financing Act 2013, that a person convicted of an offence under this Act, for which no penalty is provided, shall be liable to a fine not exceeding two million shillings, a prison term not exceeding five years or both,” IEBC regulations say.
In Lamu county, for example, population 101,539, candidates for governor, senator and woman representative can spend no more than Sh13 million.
However, in Meru where Senator Kiraitu Murungi faces Governor Peter Munya, spending is capped at Sh186 million.
Other counties with high limits are Nakuru (Sh22 million), Bungoma (Sh189 million), Kilifi (151 million), Kisii (158), Mandera (Sh137 million), Makueni (Sh120 million) and Narok (Sh114 million).
Counties with low spending limits are Isiolo (Sh16 million), Tana River (Sh28 million), Taita Taveta (Sh36 million), Marsabit (Sh30 million) and Vihiga (Sh76 million)
In Mombasa where tycoons are battling for the top job, candidates may spend up to Sh129 million. Governor Hassan Joho and his rivals businessman Suleiman Shahbal and Hezron Awiti (Nyali MP) are among the wealthiest politicians.
Cord and Jubilee traded accusations about billions being used to sway voters in the by-elections in Malindi and Kericho.
State resources were also reported to have been used.