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Opinion: War on graft lacks fundamental commitment to integrity

By Maina Kiai | Published Sun, June 3rd 2018 at 00:00, Updated June 2nd 2018 at 18:10 GMT +3
This necessarily means that the names of the unknown tenderpreneurs and civil servants being exposed on a daily basis are not the engineers behind the looting.

Make no mistake: The ongoing looting scandals involving the National Youth Service, the National Cereals and Produce Board and the energy sector were as predictable and foreseeable as night follows day! We may not have been able to pinpoint the departments that would lead the looting, but there was no doubt that there was bound to be serious looting.

The NYS was always a likely target as would be any organisation whose budget rose by more than ten times in a short while. There is simply no way to move from a Sh2.5 billion budget to Sh25 billion and expect it to be absorbed in a legal and efficient manner!

First, the looting happened during the elections season. This necessarily means that the names of the unknown tenderpreneurs and civil servants being exposed on a daily basis are not the engineers behind the looting.

Yes they made off with plenty of our hard earned taxes, but at the front, back and centre are important politicians who needed resources to buy the elections and manipulate as many people as possible to get the desired result. And some also needed to buy other politicians as they attempt to build an army of sycophants to boost them.

BUDGET SHOT UP

Second, the way the Kenyatta regime handled the Eurobond looting of Sh100 billion (US$1 billion) was a signal that looting was kosher. The denials were fast and furious, complete with public anger, but to this day the regime has never told us what was redacted in the documents they presented as evidence, claiming that this was an official account number. But an official account number is not a state secret! And why these funds were not remitted to the Central Bank as normal speaks volumes.

Third, the massive looting with the SGR so soon after the 2013 elections suggested that it was about repaying the massive resources that had been expended for those elections. Remember that the SGR budget shot up seven times after Uhuru Kenyatta visited China in 2013 even as the distance of the proposed railway shrunk. It was originally planned for Mombasa to Kisumu but the deal negotiated in China, raising the costs seven times, was Mombasa to Nairobi only.

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So irrational was the cost of this railway that as David Ndii explains, we will never be able to repay the loan in our lifetime, even if they force all the cargo to be diverted from the port of Mombasa to the Inland Depot in Embakasi. The SGR decision was not based on economic sense: It was about looting, and again sent a signal that this was a regime defined by looting.

The worst part of this SGR looting is that it has provided a route—illegally and unconstitutionally--to undermine and hollow out devolution in Mombasa and the Coast.

But by forcing all cargo to be put on the SGR and processed in Nairobi--and later Naivasha--the Kenyatta regime is weakening the value, utility and economic sense of the Mombasa port, which is the center of the County’s economic life. And it also affects the entire coast region as jobs will be forced to shift to an already overcrowded Nairobi. The entire service industry built for decades around the port and which benefits the coast region will be lost, this reducing confidence in devolution.

DESTROY THE INDEPENDENCE

At the same time, the regime is working overtime to tie up the financial, service and other systems of Nairobi County to the central government and has “seconded” officers to Nairobi County to essentially unravel and destroy the independence of the county.

It has always been clear that this regime loathes devolution because devolution has reduced its capacity to inflict pain and patronage willy-nilly. And what better way to destroy devolution than by weakening Mombasa and Nairobi counties first?

Fourth, the overt support the regime got from western and eastern powers has emboldened it to believe that it can do what it wants, with no consequences. The west may occasionally tout out the old rhetoric of values in governance, but ultimately as long as Kenya keeps its soldiers in Somalia, helps out with anti-terrorism and throws out a few deals for western companies, all is fine.

I am certain the new interest in anti-corruption is more about the fact that things have run out of control rather than a fundamental commitment to integrity. Our debt is incredibly high, and we are having problems servicing the loans and doing development. At the current rate, we will be the broke laughing stock of the world, which is not a legacy anyone would want.

So, the regime will take us on a merry dance locking up a few no names, while those behind the looting get away scot free, as they did with the first NYS scandal, the SGR and Eurobond. The goal is not to end looting, but to limit it so that it is not so self-destructive. Unfortunately that is impossible, for the entire rationale of this regime, its raison’detre and the coalition’s modus operandi is looting. 

 

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Standardmedia.co.ke


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