To end corruption, criminalise failure to achieve project development targets

The writing on the wall that corruption is a nightmare for the Government is not news. The manner, in which the vice runs through the various systems of checks and balances unabated, is what worries us as citizens.

Each year, several organisations committed to accountability and transparency including the Auditor-General release reports that often question the use and misuse of public funds. Even State agencies, right from the Presidency to the Assistant Chiefs, have on numerous occasions publicly lamented about poor management of public funds.  Consequently, threats have been issued against anyone practicing corruption.

Unfortunately, in spite of the threats and the many anti-graft crusades that both national government and county governments announce, reports such as the one recently released by the World Bank on how irresponsibly counties use public funds cast a shadow of the pessimism on the viability of the existing methods in curbing corruption.

One way of facing this endemic corruption is by demanding for a policy implementation on what we may call the principle of “Bare Minimum Budget Success” (BMBS).

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The national government and the 47 devolved units each have a budget for development programmes, that should realistically reflect the bare minimum that can be achieved within a given budget financial year.

But aware that some projects require a period beyond a year, a clear budget allocation and commitment to an achievable intent, within say four years should be made.

The BMBS means that rather than waiting for a progress or completion report of an important project, the county residents, in the case of counties projects or programes, should be told what the main project receives i.e what amount and if it will realistically be achieved within say a year.

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It is worth noting that this project must be realised by the approving government. It should not depend on who is in government, who is in this or that party or which politician and ally is pushing and pulling stronger.

BMBS ensures that for each budget year and within a regime period, there are specific projects that must be achieved as a matter of right.

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Failure to achieve the project should be criminalised. In the understanding that money for an identified project is known and budgeted for implementation should be a matter of obligation.

Then since BMBS draws its strength from the public, the Government and citizens should have the commitment to realise the project approved. Every county government should declare a project that must be achieved every budget year and at least, one major project during its life in power.

For the approved project amount allocated, its quality and standards expected should be announced in public spaces such as markets, bus stations, restaurants among other areas. This should be done in a manner that the commitment cannot be reneged in boardrooms or high places where the ordinary citizens have no access to. 

In open public places, the announcement should be done using sign posts such as the ones used to announce projects undertaken by CDF.  The purpose is to ensure a continual reminder of what a government has committed to achieve as well as serving as a means of public monitoring and evaluation.

The latter objective also becomes a means of strengthening public participation in promoting transparency and accountability in the use of public funds.

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Criminalising failure to meet BMBS is important because benchmarking of goals is easier. The primary goal is to accomplish a project. Citizens will know the start and end dates of the project. It is like what engineering contractors commit to in public. There is a start date of say house and date of project completion.

There are several advantages of this BMBS approach. Every year, a government will have to realise a project not as political posturing but as a responsibility. Residents will know what project is to be accomplished and monitor its progress. Since failure is not be contemplated, residents will have themselves to blame if they elect underperforming governments.

Further, any member of a government that does not respect the principle of BMBS should not vie for a public office for a given period; say six years - to ensure they are barred from running for elective posts in the following general election.

-Dr Elias Mokua is a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi’s School of Journalism and Director, Jesuit Hakimani Centre

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corruption development targets