Kenya Kwanza already steeped in grand sleaze

The Sh16.5 billion edible oils scandals is a slap in the face of Kenyans. [iStockphoto]

It is unfathomable that not even the risk of defaulting has forced our governing elites to eschew grand corruption.

The Sh16.5 billion edible oils scandals, which allegedly implicates members of President William Ruto’s Cabinet, is a slap in the face of Kenyans.

You may recall that the government touted the idea to import edible oils through the Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC) as a way of reducing the cost of living.

That government officials were allowed by the President to engage in corruption in a programme designed to alleviate the cost of living, signals his own lack of seriousness on the matter.

The alleged scam followed the standard operating procedure of the Jubilee administration, whose alums populate the current Kenya Kwanza government.

Companies registered in foreign jurisdictions, and with links to Cabinet Secretaries were single-sourced and awarded the contract.

The companies then hurriedly imported the edible oils with a near 45 per cent duty waiver. Yet even after the tax reprieve, the products still proved to be too expensive to sell.

The net effect is that KNTC now has in its stores products that it cannot sell competitively to impact the retail price in stores all over the country.

Meanwhile, a few people appear to have already been paid their billions by the government.

Let us be clear. The buck on this and other mega scandal stops with the President.

Unless he fires his implicated Cabinet Secretaries and has the accused firms return taxpayers’ money, Kenyans should conclude that, like President Uhuru Kenyatta before him, William Ruto encourages corruption in his administration.

There are no two ways about it. In a moment when Kenyans are being hit hard with more taxes and levies from the government, the least the President could do is to ensure members of his own administration do not steal from Kenyans.

The brazenness of it all should make us all afraid. If the threat of default on our debt and constant scrutiny from the International Monetary Fund are not enough to discipline public finance management in this government, what will?

What will happen once the threat of default subsides and we are no longer forced to put up appearances about being serious with government and policymaking?

What will happen in the course of privatisation of the parastatals as proposed by this government?

-The writer is an Associate Professor at Georgetown University