What to do to ensure war on graft is not defined by Friday arrests

You feel the impact of the flagrant theft of public funds, not from the Auditor General’s reports as contained in our sister publication Sunday Standard, but in the inability of government to render even the most basic of services.

The Auditor General, the gatekeeper of public money, catalogues how public institutions have been systematically hollowed out. For instance, he reports that Sh368 billion of the Sh1 trillion revenues collected vanishes without a trace each year. Even the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) that ought to be above reproach engages in the eating. Nearly Sh200 million is missing from collections from the Police Clearance Certificates at the DCI.  

Yesterday, the country marked the international anti-corruption day.

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So far, the focus has been on the gladiatorial nature of the war: Friday morning swoops followed by a court appearance on Monday as if arrests alone amount to indictment. Yes, arrests are part and parcel of the war, but on their own, they do not act as deterrents.

No doubt, winning the war on corruption will need more than a dogged prosecutor, a wily investigator and a strong-headed judge. But there is more to it than that.

First, those waging the war need the critical masses on their side. The message should go out that this is a fight to save the soul of the country.

There are those who have chosen to celebrate only if those hauled out of office are from the ‘enemy’ communities; and there are those on the other side who will lament that their ‘people’ are being targeted.

No wonder Deputy President William Ruto’s comment that the fight should not be politicised generated a heated debate. Understandably, in this fight, you are either for or against; there is no dimilitarised zone.  It could as well be that Mr Ruto’s remarks were taken out of context.

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Beyond the razzmatazz of the Friday arrests and a weekend spent in a cold police cell, in a fair and judicious system, the real task is in securing conviction. It is up to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and DCI to bring solid evidence. At all times, they should avoid playing to the gallery. We understand that this is a delicate balance between the pursuit of justice for disadvantaged citizens, and the need to portray a sense of brutal efficiency in dealing a blow to corruption.

But it does not stop there; there is the assumed independence, prudence of a Judiciary well seized of the matter at hand. For without this, there is real risk that that the war will be swept away by the deluge of court orders, counter-suits and an Executive that would rather sacrifice a few and shield  some sacred cows from the push into the abyss of slaughter.

Indeed from the Auditor General’s reports, what we have so far seen is a tip of the iceberg

The alleged theft at National Youth Service II, the Kenya Power, Kenya Bureau of Standards, Kenya Revenue Authority and now National Hospital Insurance Fund and Kenya Pipeline is a drop in a sea of graft and plunder.

Whereas we appreciate the message this sends, more needs to be done to stop the theft that goes on undetected throughout the bureaucracy.

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The swoops on these parastatals raises fundamental issues about governance and agency management. Who runs these entities? Are the boards incapable of seeing what goes on in there?

In truth, it is not that these ones are more susceptible to corruption than the rest. It is just that others haven’t been found out yet.

In corruption, just like in any malady, prevention is better than the cure.

The choice of board members should take into consideration subject matter expertise to raise the red flag before taxpayers’ money is lost in wasteful ventures. Take for example, the Kenya Pipeline, in the board of 11 members, none of them is an engineer. By the nature of the firm, a lot of what happens there is engineering. Most of contracts for works and supplies will obviously involve spare parts, construction and welding. Only Hudson Andambi, the newly appointed acting MD (a geologist) comes close.

In other words, prudent management of public funds includes putting the right people in the right places.

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Among the charges Kenya Pipeline Executives will face include carrying out a project without prior planning. Where was the board when the Sh2 billion Kisumu Oil Jetty project was planned and executed or when the budget was varied?

A lot of those who sit in these boards (because of political patronage) seemingly sleepwalk through meetings and resolutions imperiling taxpayer funds.

Besides that, there are inherent administrative issues including the turf wars that play out between the agencies leading the war on graft which, if not tackled, risks undermining the war.

Take the example of the prosecution of the former Central Bank of Kenya Governor Njuguna Ndung’u over a Sh1.2 billion security tender. The then DPP, Keriako Tobiko, found no grounds to prosecute him even though the EACC had given consent to do so.

Additionally, with the fresh impetus, would Mr Kinoti be willing to re-look into the matter even though he is obviously conflicted because he served under Prof Ndung’u at CBK as head of security?

And when conviction is secured, how easy will it be to recover what was lost?

Evidently, we still have a long way to go, including ensuring that the vetting of applicants for high public office is rigorous.

It could well be that detesting corruption and disassociating ourselves with the corrupt and their bad ways will yield more success than a long-winded, hit-and-miss court process.

CorruptionFriday ArrestsWar On Graft