There are lessons galore from John Waluke's jailing

Sirisia MP John Waluke at anti-corruption court in Milimani on May 10, 2022. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

The High Court on Thursday confirmed what the Magistrate's Court established in June 2020; John Waluke Koyi stole from Kenyans.

For being among those who defrauded the National Cereals and Produce Board Sh297 million, the Sirisia Member of Parliament was ordered to pay Sh627 million fine or serve 30 years in jail.

He might spend most of the rest of his life in prison - unless he has the means to pay the hefty fine or, if lucky, is able to convince the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court afterwards, to exonerate him.

But all said and done, 30 years in jail is a befitting punishment for anyone who had engaged in such a high-profile crime.

The upholding of the conviction against Waluke and his business partner Grace Wakhungu tells us at least two things; that grand corruption is alive and well in Kenya and that the courts are determined to do what is right by severely punishing those who illegally and gluttonously feed off the sweat of the taxpayer. To deter corruption, the court must continue to punish without mercy those found to have dabbled in corruption irrespective of their status in society.

But there are more lessons from Waluke's jailing. It is a confirmation of the joke that is the pre-election vetting of political candidates. It is absurd that a man who has been confirmed yet again to have taken part in the looting of tens of millions of shillings was allowed to vie and was eventually (re)elected during the August 9 elections. It is an outright mockery of the Constitution's Chapter Six on integrity.

Unfortunately, we could have elected many tainted legislators as prior to the elections, outgoing Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i had warned that a huge number of economic criminals and their accomplices were eyeing Parliament. Specifically, the anti-corruption agency had warned that 241 candidates linked to corruption were vying for presidential and parliamentary seats.

We need to streamline our laws and institutions to ensure that those accused of committing serious crimes do not get a chance to run for public office. It is ridiculous to continue citing the principle of 'innocent until proven guilty' when it comes to elections and serving in public offices. Persons of questionable character should be denied the privilege of serving in public offices until they clear their names. Otherwise, we run the risk of populating these important offices with rogues who will further entrench the culture of corruption instead of fighting it.

But there is also a lesson for electorate. When the vetting agencies fail to do their work as expected, they should not follow suit. Voters should take up the gauntlet and do what is right - reject all the tainted elements and those suspected of committing serious crimes. That way, they will save themselves and the country from needless pain.

After Waluke's jailing, Sirisia Constituency will be forced to hold a by-election. That will be throwing money down the drain. That could have been used to buy starving people food had the vetting and the voting been done right. We must avoid such costly mistakes in future.