Deal with dams' scam, then fix what makes it easy to steal from State

What the probe on kickbacks-for-tenders in the Cabinet has unravelled so far is quite frankly, depressing. Never before have Kenyans been treated to the most galling spectre of corruption.

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations is slowly unearthing a complex and widespread web of rent-seekers at the top of government squeezing billions from bidders of government contracts and tenders.

So beneath the facade of a hardworking Cabinet driving the country’s development agenda, is a club of buccaneers jostling for the next contract to make a kill.

We ought to be outraged by the sheer magnitude of plunder of the Sh33 billion Kimwarer and Sh38 billion Arror dam projects where detectives believe that up to Sh7 billion might have been paid out and yet no work is going on on the ground.

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The investigators are unmasking a rush to get the money paid even before feasibility of the projects was done or dam designs presented. The motivation was to make money at whatever cost and not just little money, billions.

There is something fundamentally wrong in a society where the elite have seemingly ganged up and wake up every day to steal from the people.

These two (Kimwarer and Arror) are not isolated cases. They sit among a litany of many government projects hijacked by a cabal of greedy tenderpreneurs making billions by delivering air. The others include the Sh7 billion Galana- Kulalu irrigation scheme or the Sh35 billion Itare Dam in Nakuru that has since stalled in spite billions being paid to the contractor as down payment.

Coincidentally, the three dams (Kimwarer, Arror and Itare) were being built by the same Italian contractor – CMC Di Ravenna- which has filed for bankruptcy- raising questions about how projects worth more than Sh90 billion were handed to one firm. The DCI owes it to Kenyans to hunt down the culprits and nail them.

We should be outraged that what was designed as projects to help those in the poorest areas have been turned into cash cows for the corrupt elite.

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Corruption loads extra costs on projects making them unduly expensive. It turns off investors who desire favourable returns on the investments.

The communities around the two dams were to benefit from water for domestic use and irrigation, improved infrastructure in a region that is generally marginalized. The dams would also generate hydro-power and boost the National Grid. All that remain in doubt.

Yet it is the missing voice of President Uhuru Kenyatta under whom the persons of interest in the probe work, that has intrigued many.

What will he do? Will he ask the investigating agencies "to go slow”?

It is reassuring that when he spoke about it yesterday, the President showed that he is well-seized of the frustrations of many Kenyans who want quick and decisive action taken. To Kenyans struggling to get by, news of yet more billions stolen is an insult.

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Though he has promised dire consequences, we must shudder when he seems ill-at-ease to grasp the nettle, cautioning that failing to act will trigger a revolution.

Mr Kenyatta has the instruments to act. When he presented a list of graft suspects in his State of the Nation address in March 2015, Kenyans applauded him. He took charge of matters. Thereafter, five Cabinet Secretaries resigned. He should do the same now.

Those who have been suspected and continue to serve in his government undermine him. They need to step aside to allow investigations to be carried out.

Our systems are working, a revolution should be the last resort. A revolution risks destroying what really has been left untouched by the theft cartels; nationhood.

What Kenyans want is the guilty to be jailed and the innocent to be set free.

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We have witnessed a renewed zeal to fight graft- not from the energy deployed by the DCI and DPP but through the new methods keen to disrupt the corruption networks. We applaud his administration for that. He can go further. For example, he needs to address what makes it easy to steal through public corporations.

At the centre of all the rot in these institutions are governance issues. Those who sit on the boards lack the necessary expertise and knowledge and the attitude to deliver. Rather than generate income for the Exchequer, parastatals - set up at huge costs- are used as centres to reward the old boy network.  

In truth, these boards are populated with hangers-on and political rejects readying to make a kill from the lucrative contracts to recover money they spent in elections. Working in cahoots with senior management, they shamelessly device schemes to hollow out these institutions.

In most cases, they are conduits for the well-heeled politicians.

Mr Kenyatta has shown that he is no prisoner of any political grouping. And this being his last term where legacy takes centre stage, he needs to initiate reforms to rid the parastatals of these shenanigans and restore glory in these institutions. 

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Directorate of Criminal InvestigationsCabinetArror dam projectsKimwarerCorruptionDam scandal