The prevalence of corruption has entrenched the country in poverty

By Billow Kerrow

It was a pretty interesting week with major events that drew sharp focus on the Executive. The annual Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission conference on the war against corruption was held; the Budget Speech for 2013/14 was delivered; the Senate and the County Governments held a meeting to challenge the Executive’s decision to slight them, and the 2013 Human Development report was released by the United Nations. I find a common theme in all – the challenges of poverty. And corruption plays a key role.

Since the new Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act was passed in 2011, the Commission has been reduced to a shell of its former self. The Leadership and Integrity Act 2012 did little to enhance its role in ensuring integrity in public service. It was in limbo for most of 2011/12 as it faced challenges in the appointment of its commissioners. To date, it has no chair. Most of the key staff left citing job insecurity. Early this year, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission slashed their pay significantly, leading to more exodus and demotivation.

And since 2011, neither the Executive nor the National Assembly, to which it reports, take the institution seriously. Only recently, the National Assembly ignored its warning during the vetting process. Yet, Kenya was still ranked as one of the most corrupt countries globally. The Corruption Perception Index 2012 ranked Kenya position 139 out of 176 countries surveyed. According to The Treasury, nearly Sh300 billion is lost annually to corruption networks through public procurement process.

The President has declared zero tolerance on corruption, as done by all before him. Recently, media reports indicated that he avoided appointing several persons as Principal Secretaries after the Commission raised the red flag. The prevalence of corruption has entrenched this country in poverty.

The UN just released its annual Human Development Report that placed our nation at position 145 out of 187. The report measures how our country’s economic growth translates to improved wellbeing of our citizens, and examines life expectancy, education and income indices among others to rank countries. The Government just released its 2013/14 Budget, with public expenditure projected at Sh1.64 trillion, an ambitions budget by all indications.

The challenge facing the nascent Jubilee government is to align public spending to priority development areas that will impact positively on the poor and create jobs. We can grow the economy and focus on the ordinary Kenyans if more resources are channeled to county governments that give the people the power to determine their development priorities. But in the first Budget since the creation of county governments, only Sh190 billion will be administered by the counties, representing just over 11 per cent of total national spend.

An attempt by the Senate to up these numbers was vetoed by the National Assembly and upheld by the Executive. The Senate immediately convened a county government leaders meeting and expressed concern that devolution was at risk of being starved to death. The Senate rushed to court to seek advise on whether the Constitution was breached but all agreed on the need to review the Constitution soon to ensure that these county governments remain. It is clear that without adequate resources, devolution is being set up to fail and poverty shall remain with us for long.