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The law-abiding majority should be embracing the lifestyle audits

By Naisula Lesuuda | September 14th 2018

There is a well-known phrase: “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about.” This should become the mantra of the new war on corruption led by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

For the vast majority of Kenyans who have not stolen or misappropriated funds or provided false procurement to family or friends, the war on corruption should be seen as an extremely positive development.

It is an exercise that sees money meant to help the nation and communities progress and develop return for these essential needs.

However, for the minority who see opportunities to enrich themselves at the nation’s expense, the war on corruption should be a nightmare.

When the President spoke during this year’s Madaraka Day address, he laid out the terms of this war. When he directed that Kenya’s civil servants should take a lifestyle audit, there were those who shuddered at this demand.

Uhuru made it clear that no one would be able to avoid this scrutiny, not even himself or Deputy President William Ruto.

The audit, as envisioned by the President, is a daring attempt to exorcise a demon that has defiled the national purse for far too many decades.

A lifestyle audit is the analysis of a person’s living standards to see if it is consistent with his reported income. 

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Dishonestly inclined professionals are able to conceal fraud with disturbing alacrity and ease, particularly in work environments with weak controls or limited segregation of duty.

Unexplained change

So sometimes the only clue to corruption is a sudden unexplained change in the lifestyle of an employee. Lifestyle audits are therefore legitimate fraud prevention and detection mechanisms.

In Government and the civil service, conducting a lifestyle audit on a public servant is even easier because a public servant’s life is supposed to be open and transparent.

This is because they have been employed to manage public resources and like the proverbial ‘Caesar’s wife’, are supposed to be clear of any suspicion, especially regarding how they manage these resources. They need to be above the suspicion of stealing from the public.

A lifestyle audit is the tool that clears them of such suspicions, or finds them guilty and opens up more detailed investigations.

On June 1, Uhuru ordered the heads of all Government procurement departments in all ministries and State corporations to go on compulsory leave to facilitate a thorough lifestyle audit. Their deputies took over in acting capacities.

Main suspects

This development followed revelations that one of the main suspects in the National Youth Service scandal, Ann Ngirita, was paid millions of shillings for supplying nothing, due to faulty procurement processes.

This means lifestyle audits are an annoyance and even a problem for some, but an absolutely vital tool in this war against rampant corruption.

Only those who have something to hide have something to fear from these audits.

This is why it is deeply gratifying to hear that after two months of gruelling vetting, 400 heads of procurement and accounting departments in Government have been allowed back to work, having passed the audits.

Of the workers put through the lifestyle audit, 70 per cent had proved to be clean.

Head of Civil Service Joseph Kinyua was even quoted saying, during the assumption of office of Stephen Kirogo as chairman of the Public Service Commission, that they had found many of the civil servants were “good people” who were able to account for everything they owned and how they came to own it.

Recorded testimonies

It has been said that those officers with queries on their wealth were grilled by Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji and had recorded testimonies.

The grilling was reportedly co-ordinated from the Office of the President and the National Intelligence Service, which provided most of the background information that was then assessed based on what the officers declared in provided wealth forms.

Government Spokesman Eric Kiraithe said the next cohort of officers to be vetted had been identified and would soon be informed of the start of their vetting.

In a perfect world, lifestyle audits would not be necessary. Unfortunately, we do not live in such a world and therefore need to constantly rethinking ways to catch the thieves.

The lifestyle audits are working - and for the peaceful and law-abiding majority of Kenyans, we should embrace them.

Ms Lesuuda is Samburu West MP


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