Kenya should net the ‘big fish’ in war against graft

NAIROBI: Two years ago, I asked a question in Parliament for the Treasury to update the country on implementation of the Kroll report commissioned in 2003 by the Narc Government. I engaged top exchequer mandarins. All of them snobbishly brushed aside my inquiries. Not even the Parliamentary Committee on Finance prompts were honoured. Some three years on, nothing is forthcoming. Isn’t this outright impunity? Isn’t this blatant contempt of parliamentary oversight by the Executive?

Foreign phantom companies routinely get tenders on ‘commissions,’ bribes. Jersey and Isle of Man are among hitherto unquestioned jurisdictions suspected for routine use for dubious transactions. Other jurisdictions including Liechtenstein, Austria, Dubai, France, Swiss, and the United Kingdom have also been loot havens for African aristocrats, oligarchs and their cronies. Clearly, the willingness and collaboration of these jurisdictions is critical to bringing culprits to book. We laud the new vigour to collaborate. But local determination seems significantly inhibited by domestic complexities of politics. It is gratifying that the Swiss have dedicated to help us recover stolen monies in their jurisdiction.

Experts estimate that cumulative loot stashed abroad is in excess of Sh1 trillion. Dummy companies and indecent law firms are the regular conduits. It is not the peasants and labourers of Kenya who execute such plots. Perpetrators loom large in positions of influence. Their proxies are the smooth ‘traders’ stalking the city’s leafy suburbs sipping wine over imported steaks to drown memories of the poverty they leave in their wake. They are the smooth gate-keepers in high power echelons. They are insidious and ruthless as they stalk and sniff ripening fruits of a forbidden garden.

The radical reform surgery shouldn’t only target new constitutional office seekers. Rent-seekers in Government and Parliament, past and present should be pursued and prohibited from holding public office. If eminent judicial officers have been blocked from the new dawn courtesy of their irredeemable past, why should the political class be exempt? And why are the private sector graft perpetrators rarely, if ever, indicted? Truly, breaking the old order is no cocktail party.

Cash stashed overseas by yesterday looters is enough to underwrite our foreign debt, and make Kenya catch up with our 1963 peers such as Singapore, South Korea and Malaysia by 2025 if not earlier. Merchants of graft are in peril, but we remain a country of stark contradictions: chicken thieves are locked in fast and furious while filthy rich fraudsters walk scot-free because the “prosecution did not prove their case”.  A time has come to break the looters’ alliance and their offshore proxies. Let us disperse this unholy alliance. The circus of high-sounding nothings must come to an end. Five years on, new obligations of the Constitution, and the optimism and basic expectations of Kenyans will drive those tasked to be responsible for making Kenya different to act. No state officer can  wallow in the miasma of deceit and survive any more.

The responsibility to reign in sleaze is administratively bestowed upon official authorities. But more importantly, the moral responsibility to reign in the culture of “eating” is upon, we the shareholders of our Republic: citizens.

Parliamentary oversight should be empowered more. Facilitation of the Judiciary to sustain its independence is not negotiable. Accountability by the Executive is not a preference but a must. Inevitably, we must also reduce the cost of constitutional organs, including nominations to county and national assemblies, as well as terminate duplicity and bloated budgets of commissions. Deodorising mercenaries ruining our heritage is our collective undoing. Correcting this sorry state primarily lies with legal authorities. The onus to shepherd this process is the task of we the political leaders. Others will troop along. We can and I believe we will do it.