The government has admitted that it is grappling with the theft of public resources of an industrial scale even as it urged MPs to back President William Ruto’s quest to slay the corruption dragon.
Chief of Staff and Head of the Public Service Felix Koskei said corruption was so deep and widespread that citizens factor it into their daily lives, being sure that somewhere a bribe will be demanded by public officials.
This comes barely a week after President Ruto gave a stern warning to those stealing from the public coffers, saying they have three options - “go to jail, relocate from Kenya or he will send them to heaven”.
Speaking in Mombasa, Mr Koskei painted a picture of a sorry state in the pilferage of public resources and the effects it has had on the economy. He said most government projects have stalled because of graft.
“The country is grappling with theft of public resources at an industrial scale. Corruption has permeated all aspects of the society to the extent that it is normalised,” said Mr Koskei. He added: “Citizens, businesses, and public entities factor it into their daily expenses and budgets. This has pushed the cost of doing business in the county through the roof.”
Mr Koskei, however, said that President Ruto’s government was keen to pursue and sustain the war across the width and breadth of government, and “I can confidently say there shall be no sacred cows.”
Mr Koskei said this during the first-ever consultative meeting between six audit committees of the National Assembly and the Executive Office of the President held in Mombasa on Friday.
The MPs were from the Public Investments Committee on Commercial Affairs and Energy, Public Accounts Committee, Decentralised Funds Accounts Committee, Special Funds Accounts Committee, Public Investments Committee on Governance and Education, and Public Investments Committee on Social Services, Administration and Agriculture.
The MPs led by West Mugirango’s Stephen Mogaka claimed the Kenya Kwanza administration had let down the country because it has not been bold enough to fight corruption.
He said that public audits should include human resources at all levels of government so that the country can make strides in the war against corruption.
“The executive should be bold enough on the human resource question to stop the pilferage of public resources,” he said. Saboti MP Caleb Hamisi claimed there was corruption within the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), questioning its failure to fix the vice.
“The fight against corruption must get serious. Those participating in corruption are not stupid street boys. We will support you if you are serious,” he said.
Maragua MP Mary Wamaua claimed that the war against graft could have been frustrated or sabotaged by corrupt officers in the office of the Auditor General.
“Some audit reports are too shallow. We have to ask for special audits or forensic audits to enable us to table a comprehensive report in parliament,” she argued.
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Lari MP Mburu Kahangara claimed a lot of public funds were being lost on projects but the matter did not come to light, adding that private members’ motions or bills are shot down in parliament due to political party affiliations.
“Private members’ motions are usually taken over by the leadership and killed based on party affiliation,” he stated.
But Mr Koskei said there was a need for MPs from the government and opposition to join hands in the fight against the vice, noting that corruption has continued despite the numerous laws that parliament has enacted.
“The impact of corruption has been poor-quality infrastructure, insufficient health services, inadequate social security system, unplanned, stalled and abandoned projects and phantom projects that exist only on paper or in people’s minds,” said Koskei.
Koskei said the executive treats MPs as its most critical and strategic partners or stakeholders in the war against corruption. “Collectively, we must look deeper beyond the law to have a strong society grounded on ethical values. This nation needs to return to factory settings and redeem its image and standing,” he observed.
Kilifi women representative and vice chairperson of the Decentralised Funds Committee, Ms Gertrude Mbeyu, called for a review of the appointments of nine board members of the National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAF) and its county coordinators, claiming they were riddled with corruption.
She also took issue with the allocation of Sh130 million for administration from the Sh1 billion NGAF funds meant for projects.
“We want investigations and a review done on the appointments because two members of the board came from the same county while some of the county coordinators do not have degrees as required by law,” she said.
MPs noted that the office of the auditor general should get more funds, personnel, and equipment to enhance the audit of public entities and issue timely reports to help parliament oversight the executive.
In resolutions presented by the chairman of the Public Investments Committee on Commercial Affairs and Energy David Pkosing, the meeting recommended periodic consultations between parliament and the office of the President.
The team called for a special audit of NGAF and asked the office of the auditor general to extend its audits to cover human resources.