Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi wants Parliament to craft a new law that would stop public officers charged with corruption from holding office.
Mr Wandayi noted the law is not clear on what should happen when officers, such as governors, are charged with corruption.
His suggestion couldn’t have come at a better time. It comes when governors are planning to appeal court decisions barring two of their colleagues — Kiambu’s Ferdinand Waititu and Moses Lenolkulal of Samburu — from accessing their offices until graft cases against them are concluded. High Court Judge Grace Ngenye recently ruled that allowing Waititu to continue serving the people he is accused of stealing from “would be immoral and untenable”.
In July, Justice Mumbi Ngugi disallowed Lenolkulal from accessing his office posing, “would it serve the public interest for him to go back to office and preside over the finances of the county that he has been charged with embezzling?”
These are good decisions. It is imperative that people charged with corruption stay out of office until they are exonerated from the charges. That is what happens with officials facing similar charges. National Treasury CS Henry Rotich and his PS Kamau Thugge are out of office following their arraignment. More than 70 KRA employees charged with corruption recently are out of office. Many others charged over various scandals, including at NYS and Kenya Power, have also been suspended. What is special about governors?
The county bosses argue they are special because their mandate comes from the people. They also cite the principle that one is “innocent until proven guilty”.
Corruption is a serious crime. It kills when coffers are looted dry and hospitals are forced to go without life-saving drugs. It kills when funds meant for food aid are looted. It impoverishes when money for development goes into the fathomless stomachs of the corrupt.
That is why graft suspects must be kept away from their offices. There is a likelihood that by the end of the court process, they might come out smelling like roses. But some of those facing graft charges are rotten to the core, and would have no qualms continuing to rip off the taxpayer if allowed to stay in office. This should never be allowed to happen. That’s why the good and the bad must stay out in the cold until their fates are determined.
Wandayi must move with speed to ensure the changes he has proposed are put in place. The law should remain blind. It must not treat governors differently when it comes to corruption.
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