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SGR anomalies should prompt us to rethink war on corruption

By Editorial - Jun 21st 2020

There’s no denying that corruption is one of the greatest threats to Kenya’s prosperity, and it did not start today.

Going by recent court rulings on State projects, it is clear that blunders in conception, planning and execution of mega deals is costing us dearly.

Experts and State officials tasked with ensuring public resources are utilised in a transparent and cost-effective manner are now being called out over the abuse of processes that promise to cause more harm than good for the economy.

On Friday, the Court of Appeal ruled that procurement of the SGR project that has cost close to Sh500 billion was flawed, handing even more ammunition to its critics, who had maintained the mega project was a white elephant.

It is increasingly clear that some officials who enter deals on behalf of Kenya have always thrown caution to the dogs, and made decisions that predispose Kenyans to failure and economic pitfalls of monumental proportions. 

Laws are made for the people, and not vice versa. Bending the law, feigning ignorance or even imagining that an official entrusted with billions of shillings can derive financial gains at the expense of 47 million taxpayers is unacceptable.

Former President Mwai Kibaki dreamt of a country with speed trains for its people. He thought of an economy with little or no traffic, and with mass transport from one county to another. His successor Uhuru Kenyatta took over the dream of a nation, to build something that could have alleviated the suffering of many Kenyans who are tired of smoky jams and failed businesses due to poor transport infrastructure. Should such a dream be ruined by a few officials? No, it shouldn’t.

Last week, the court opened a Pandora's box for questions that Kenyans need answers to today and not tomorrow. By head-hunting a single entity to build a railway, did we get value for money? Was the cost reasonable and what was the rush that saw State officials fail to float international tenders for SGR, a project that we are paying dearly for?

Kenyans deserve the truth. Who blundered in the SGR deal? The judgement by the Court of Appeal that Kenya Railways did not follow procurement laws places the country in a precarious situation, especially as regards the relationship with China, a major financier of several projects.

In the current scenario, can Kenya honour its debt to China based on a process declared to have been flawed? Is it legal to honour and subject Kenyan cash to a process that courts have red carded? On the other hand, contractual and international laws require us as a country to honour our obligations as and when we bind ourselves.

Maybe it is time we re-examined and overhauled our systems because each time we try to fire our engines towards a prosperous nation, there are gels of bad oil that ooze in us. Take the Nairobi Metropolitan Service (NMS), a brilliant idea to keep Nairobi’s status as a capital city intact. Again, we overlooked the law and the court pointed this out.

From the look of things, it is not the law that is the problem, Kenya's people are. If our freedom fighters were to wake up today, would they be happy to see the plunder and disobedience that is in our nation? Would they enjoy a ride to Mombasa knowing the very sweat and blood they poured to liberate us is almost forgotten and nearly irrelevant to men and women who want to cut corners.

Singapore was at the same level as Kenya economically in the 1960s. It moved on to be the powerhouse it is now. Sacrifices had to be made while we today are still trying to figure out where we want to be. It is time to act and obey the law.

To appease the 47 million Kenyans who care about the economic health of the nation, investigative arms should rein in officials who engage in blatant abuse of processes. The interest of a country is bigger than that of a few individuals.

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