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Corruption, the uncomfortable truth

COMMENTARY
By Yvonne Okwara | December 4th 2016

My take is about the feedback we have received throughout the week on our coverage of county corruption, which we are calling 47 Days Of Accountability.

Obviously there are people who appreciate this small effort to remind the country that corruption is pervasive and that it is no respecter of political party or region. But then some have seen our coverage as some kind of tactic to deflect attention from the billions being stolen at the national level.

The national government holds 85% of the funds while only a mere 15% goes to the counties.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I find this dichotomy of ‘small’ versus ‘big’ corruption quite absurd.

The fact is that this coverage is not a choice between the counties and the national government. The mindset that makes people steal public resources is the same.

The policeman who takes a 50-shilling bribe on the roadside, will steal billions if he or she were in charge of the Standard Gauge Railway.

The procurement officer who tilts contracts in favour of those who bribe him, may auction State House if he were President.

Equally, the Governor who steals millions will definitely steal billions if he got a chance. Just because the sums of money we are reporting seem paltry in comparison to the billions you are used to hearing about at the national government does not make it any less abominable.

Does 47 Days Of Accountability make some people uncomfortable? Sure it does? Should it make us uncomfortable? Of course it should. It is only when you leave your comfort zone that change begins to happen.

For far too long it has been easy to refer to corruption as that vice that is happening ‘over there’ to ‘those people’ being perpetrated by ‘the other people’.

Now the reality is closer home thanks to devolution. But, ladies and gentlemen, corruption is not what the 2010 constitution intended. 

We will only win when we account for every cent, Kshs. 2m, Kshs. 2b, at the county level, at the national level, even at your local markets.

One other way we win is by calling it what it is. In Africa we are fond of euphemisms, a respectful way of referring to touchy issues in society.

We may have transferred this to the war on this vice. We have baptised it with all these fanciful monikers like graft, corruption, lack of integrity etc.

Let us call what it is, corruption is theft. If you are corrupt, you are a thief. Period!

That’s my take.

@YvonneOkwara

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