Budget: Uhuru pumps billions to recover millions in graft war

National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich when he presented the Budget estimates last week. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s second term in office has been characterised by his zeal and commitment to fighting graft. And the fight against this debilitating form of cancer has not come cheap.

Since he took office for his final term, Kenyatta’s government has over the course of two budgets allocated more than 38 billion shillings in the war against corruption.

But analysts and governance experts are now poking holes in what seems to be an endless allocation of billions of shillings through direct funding as well as infrastructure and personnel investment against the ever-deepening corruption hole.

In particular, the Government has allocated Sh2.9 billion to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), Sh3 billion to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) and Sh149 million to the Unclaimed Assets Recovery Agency.

Others include Sh50 million to Asset Recovery Agency, Sh540.8 million to the Financial Reporting Centre, Sh7.1 billion to the Criminal Investigations Services and Sh 5.7 billion to the Office of the Auditor General (OAG).

On numerous occasions, the Head of State is on record reiterating his commitment to slay the dragon, which has earned him both friends and foe.

“We need to be told clearly as Kenyans, the major achievements of this war because as far as we are concerned, monies have been allocated without tangible results,” Dr Samuel Nyandemo, an economist at the University of Nairobi (UoN) told Sunday Standard. “It’s more of some gimmicks and political rhetoric. Fighting corruption is not investigating without arresting and charging people in court and eventually recovering proceeds of crime.”

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Last week, the country’s top investigators went on a four-day trip to the United States. The official trip saw the DPP Noordin Haji and DCI Director Kinoti engaging their US counterparts on anti-corruption efforts and money laundering and the formation of a joint terrorism taskforce in Kenya.

These trips have, however, become symptomatic of what seems to be a vicious cycle, fuelled by much-publicised arrests and probes by the two agencies which eventually fizzle out without much movement. More often than not, the probes end in officers from these agencies visiting foreign countries for more ‘investigations and collaborations.’

“The government has up to now pursued a series of unconnected anti-corruption activities, mainly prosecutorial, when it really needs an anti-corruption strategy based on a proper diagnosis of the problem and the drivers of that problem,” State Capture, a report by a coalition of non-state agencies on the country’s state of corruption says. “High profile arrests and indictments; ‘aggressive’ repatriation attempts and funding blue-ribbon multi-sectoral agencies have all been tried before and proven to be ineffectual.”

And the numbers look firmly stacked against these well-funded agencies.

The EACC and the DPP have completed countless probes and made an even higher number of recommendations. Yet, the success rate column remains eerily underpopulated.

The agencies competing against each other in hogging the limelight and controlling their own narratives on how they are perceived by the public instead of focusing on reigning in runaway corruption.

The government, however, believes it is doing a good job in fighting corruption. 

“To date, cases against Samburu Governor Moses Kasaine who is under probe for alleged misappropriation of Sh2 billion, Migori's Okoth Obado (Sh2.6 billion), and Busia's Sospeter Ojaamong Ojaamong Sh8 million have been taken to court,” Attorney General Kihara Kariuki said while presenting a report by the Multi-Agency Taskforce to the Senate Legal Affairs Committee in April.

Kihara mentioned cases against former government officials Ali Wario and Lilian Omollo, officials of the NHIF, Kenya Pipeline Company, Kenya Power, Kerio Valley Development Authority, National Lands Commission as well as Kenya Railways Corporation among others as success stories. 

Haji, the DPP also said the Government has so far recovered over Sh16 billion in the ongoing corruption purge.

These official numbers, however, are a tiny sum when placed side by side with the actual cost of corruption.

Conservative estimates by non-state agencies state that at least a third of the national budget is embezzled. This means that this financial year, Kenyans stand to lose more that Sh1 trillion to graft lords from their Sh3 trillion budget.

But it is never entirely about intentions. Burdened by sinking debt and immense taxes in what has been touted a ‘Golf Course Budget’ one which favours the rich and continues to burden the poor, there is a general feeling that the war will require much more than  the president’s repeat messaging on intent.

“Leaders will be held accountable by the people over the responsibility entrusted on them. Corruption and tribalism are holding the country back from achieving its full potential,” the president said Friday. 

Yet, many of the very people he relies on to drive the country into prosperity are not without fault.

Governors Muthomi Njuki (Tharak/Nithi), Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia), Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu), Moses Lenalkulal (Samburu) and ex governors Evans Kidero and Daniel Waithaka Mwangi are in trouble with EACC over procurement and financial flaws.

“Those who have amassed property suspected to be as a result of corruption should be held accountable. The president should no fear taking the necessary actions on certain people,” Dr Nyandemo said.

With President Uhuru and his former nemesis Raila Odinga reading from what looks to be the same script with regard to corruption, the political class, at least a fraction of it might be turned into believers. Raila himself has said that a time is coming when all individuals engaged in economic crimes will be “swept to the sea”.

But until such a time, those adversely mentioned continue with their lives uninterrupted. The Arror and Kimwarwer dams scandal, the looting of NHIF and KPC remain only a part of Kenya’s colourful history on corruption.

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War on corrruptionCorruptionUhuru KenyattaBudget