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Fighting graft is every Kenyan’s business

COMMENTARY
By Washington MacOdingo | May 29th 2015

NAIROBI: The war against corruption cannot be the Government's alone. It cannot be partisan. It is a war that must be zealously fought by both the ruling and opposition coalitions. When it comes to the war to protect our taxes from enriching a few individuals over the many, we cannot be CORD or Jubilee. We must be Kenyans.

It is a fight that cannot be carried out at the national level alone – we have to deal with county governments and private entities as well. I say we must also deal with private entities because for every major corruption scandal in Kenya, there is a private entity executing the corrupt deal. In fact, I would dare say the private sector is as corrupt, if not more, than the government.

If there was no corruption within the private sector, there would literally be no major corruption in Government. A police officer may be corrupt, but he is not going to take a billion-shilling bribe from a Kenyan. I find it interesting that CORD would be talking about corruption as a failure of Jubilee. In reality, corruption is as much a problem for CORD as it is Jubilee's. In fact, one can argue that the current corruption we are experiencing is more of a CORD problem than it is a Jubilee problem.

All the current projects where allegations of corruption have been made were initiated by the Grand Coalition Government. The top CORD leadership was until 2013 in the top management of the country as prime minister, vice president and foreign affairs minister. All three of them sat on the National Security Council for five years. Together, they made decisions about this country's security. In this entire period, corruption was consistently identified as the primary contributor to insecurity. One must then ask what measures did they put in place to deal with corruption in the security services.

Then there is the devolution era. There is a very strong temptation to focus all our anti-corruption efforts on the so-called mega scandals at the national level. With counties set to receive in excess of Sh290 billion this coming financial year (about 29 per cent of the revenue collected in 2014-15), collectively, corruption in the counties could easily constitute several "mega-scandals".

Dealing with corruption in county governments is not just a Jubilee issue. It must be a CORD issue as well. In fact, one may even argue that it is more of a CORD issue than it is a Jubilee issue – after all, more than half of the counties are run by CORD-affiliated governors. Of the 13 Governors recently named on the so-called List of Shame, nine of them are CORD-affiliated (70 per cent).

One would therefore imagine that the CORD leadership, being the self-proclaimed defenders of devolution, would be having serious introspection about the fact that most of those governors implicated in corruption are members of their coalition. One would therefore expect that the CORD leadership would be going out of their way to hold CORD governors to a higher standard of probity with public money before they can do so for the national government – a typical case of removing the speck in one's eye before removing the log in someone else's eyes.

With the exception of about three counties, all other counties are collecting less revenue than their local authorities used to collect pre-devolution. Into which hole is this money disappearing? We should not forget that an Opposition-led accountability watchdog, the Parliamentary Accounts Committee, was recently disbanded and reconstituted after allegations of corruption surfaced.

This is not how a coalition that claims it has the wherewithal to deal with corruption should behave. It is true that the State has the instruments to bring the corrupt to justice and it must do more to achieve the desired results. However, as everyone knows, prevention is better than cure.

As we ask CORD governors to be accountable, we must also ask the Jubilee leadership both at the county and at the national level to do the same. Corruption must be tackled at all levels, by everybody.

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