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Who will walk the ‘no corruption’ talk?

COMMENTARY
By Dr M Y Elmi | December 17th 2013

By Dr M Y Elmi

Kenya: Zero tolerance to corruption has been a common phrase in Kenya for a long time now.

It has become a campaign tool that has created unparallelled euphoria in the political environment, particularly during election years.  It has been used by every Government since independence from Kanu to Narc, PNU/ODM and now Jubilee. However,  the ‘zero tolerance’ policy remains a campaign tool to be used by the political elite to seize powder.

Corruption is responsible for all the evils that have bedeviled this country from terrorism to poverty, disease, tribal and ethnic conflict, land grabbing and so on.

The Narc government raised the people’s expectations after defeating the abusive and corrupt Kanu regime in 2002, by introducing the much appreciated and later abused ‘radical surgery’  policy, which was meant to remove all the cancerous cells  of corruption from the system.   But before long, the surgeon become the patient and the leading anti-corruption crusaders were implicated in mega corruption deals.

The attitude of  “it’s our time to eat” became a generalised phenomena, a beautiful and fashionable song, and Anglo-Leasing and other scandals flourished in earnest.

Exit Narc  and enter the coalition government of PNU and ODM  which was a totally dysfunctional system, where political bickering become the order of the day and the national focus was diverted to trivial political battles between the principals and their coalition parties. 

Fighting corruption was shifted to the back burner, multiple corruption scandals dominated the national and international news. In the process, Kenyans suffered immensely with escalating poverty and hunger. The gap between the rich and the poor widened and shameful words like ‘internally displaced persons’ (IDPs) and tribal clashes become commonplace in our national vocabulary.

But despite all this, God has been kind to our nation and blessed our country abundantly. In addition to our scenic lands, the beautiful vistas of mountains, rivers, lakes and oceans and the abundance of skilled, human capital, God has bequeathed us with oil and rare earth mineral deposits in Turkana and Kwale worth billions of dollars.

Oil exploration is ongoing in the Arbajahan plains of Wajir and the Chalbi Desert in Marsabit. With prudent national resources management and total elimination of corruption, poverty and hunger could be a thing of the past in this country.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy President William Ruto are two of the luckiest leaders in the history of this nation, to be at the helm of the country’s political leadership at this point in our nationhood. In addition to abundant resources, they also have the goodwill of the people of Kenya.

However to catapult this unprecedented development, there is need for overzealous patriotism to fight corruption in all its forms. These leaders need to shed partisan and tribal considerations and put in place prudent and pragmatic policies.

Devolution as envisioned by the constitution, is the best thing that has happened to Kenya since independence because it is supposed to bring services and development close to the people in their counties.

The colossal sums of money that have been allocated to the counties, if properly utilised, can change the lives of ordinary Kenyans for the better. However, devolution is a double edged sword and in the absence of a strong legal and policy framework in the counties, these colossal amounts of money could end up in the wrong hands.

According to the recently released report on the county budgets, some counties are already suffering from glaring abuses of office and outright contraventions of the law. There are also glaring gaps in capacity. A case in point is Wajir County which can only perform two out of the fourteen deveolved functions, yet the county has already consumed all the funds allocated.  This could be a case of outright pilferage which calls for a forensic audit.

Already, rumours abound in Wajir County of gross abuse of procurement procedures and weak integrated financial management systems resulting in the purchase of sub-standard goods and services.

According to Transparency International, a global watchdog on corruption and good governance, Kenya is rated among the most corrupt countries in the world.  If their corruption perception index is to be believed, the country is ranked 139 out of the 179 countries listed.

The net effects of corruption are high infant and maternal mortality and low life expectancy among other calamities. It’s largely believed that the Westgate disaster could have been avoided if corruption was eliminated and the people entrusted with security, immigration and other crucial national responsibilities were more patriotic and vigilant.

The million dollar question is will the Jubilee government walk the talk of zero tolerance to corruption? Time will tell!

 The writer is a lecturer at Mount Kenya University

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