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EACC emerges as the weakest link in the fight against graft

COUNTIES
By Daniel Wesangula | June 9th 2018
President Uhuru

The Ethics and Anti- Corruption Commission, an agency mandated by law and once trusted by Kenyans to lead the fight against graft is increasingly finding itself isolated as a result of its classic head-in-the-sand tactic and lackadaisical approach to duty.

On Wednesday, EACC which has remained mum at a time of grand corruption, was put to task by the Senate’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, which sought to understand the relevance of a body that seems to grope in the dark instead of leading the very fight for which it was created.

Over the years, the graft body has consistently gone after the small fish in the corruption game, occasionally attempting to nab corruption architects. Often though, this almost always falls flat on its face.

In its third quarterly report from 2017 dated 1st July to 30th September, the EACC forwarded 52 cases to the Director of Public Prosecution’s office. Forty two of these were recommended for prosecution. Three were recommended for administrative or other action while seven files were recommended for closure.

Of the 42 recommended for prosecution, 26 involved individuals, mostly traffic police officers accused of soliciting bribes of between Sh100 and Sh5,000. More than ten of these involved cases of individuals accused of unethical conduct, which includes nepotism and payroll maladministration within county governments.

IRREGULAR AWARDING

A similar trend can be seen in the institution’s previous reports for 2017, painting a picture of an organisation unaware of the direction investigations were taking in major scandals such as the second looting at the National Youth Service, the Kenya Power Company and the Kenya Pipeline Company that are bleeding Kenya dry.

For long periods during the unraveling of these scams, EACC has looked clueless to what the other partners in the multi-agency anti-corruption task force were doing, prompting many to think that time is up for the agency whose 15-year existence has largely passed by as a blur, only punctuated by the shirt-rolling of those at the helm of the agency.

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This week, a report by Parliament’s Departmental Committee on Lands castigated the commission for its role in the irregular awarding of Sh1.5 billion to a private developer as compensation for prime city land.

“The Committee further recommends that the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission should take responsibility for loss of public funds amounting to Sh1,500,000,000 for delay and failure to safeguard against the loss of the funds,” the report reads.

The Committee also observed that EACC had been uncooperative in the course of the hearing of the matter, evidenced by its failure to avail a confidential report on the matter on time as agreed, and moving slow to stop movement of monies involved in the transaction.

Of late, EACC has been playing catch up, issuing irrelevant statements updating the public on the state of investigations in cases that started as early as 2013 and 2014, with little progress.

Just last week, the commission, in an attempt largely believed to seek sympathy from the public, sued Lands Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri, former Health Principal Secretary Khadija Kasachon, two companies and 19 other individuals in a bid to recover money lost in the Sh1 billion container clinic scam. Apparently, this , duty has by law been allocated to the Assets Recovery Agency.

This ruse has not been a one-off offense. In 2015, in a fit of bravado, the commission’s Chief Executive Officer, Halakhe Waqo presented a list of alleged water tight corruption cases to the highest office on the land. The contents of the list not only formed a huge part of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s State of The Nation Address that year, but led to the resignation of several Government officials.

In 2016, the president perhaps realising the wild goose chase that the commission had sent him on, publicly dressed down Waqo at a State House function, but this did little to jolt the commission into action. Since then, the status quo has remained and the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil approach has remained key in the operations of the commission funded by the Kenyan tax payer.

“We Waqo wewe ulinisimamisha hapo mbele ya bunge nikafuta mawaziri ..mpaka wa leo, after two years hujaniambia where their guilt is,” the president lambasted him.

Two years later, as the senators laid it on the commission, it became clear that the gentlemen and lady before the legislators were not in a position to offer solutions sought by not only the citizens, but also by the person they elected as president.

“The commission has limited capacity and resources,” Waqo said. “Plus, there is an unwillingness of people in authority to take the fight against corruption seriously. There are some weaknesses in the country’s legal framework and also Kenyans seem to have accepted corruption as a way of life and remain pessimistic on our role in the fight.”

Last year, EACC was allocated Sh2.8 billion. In the last five years, Waqo’s team has received Sh12 billion in the war against graft, a figure that the EACC CEO says isn’t enough to fight graft.

But as the officers took their seats to field questions from the legislators, public belief in his agency went down another notch, evoking memories of surrender from previous office holders whose tenures were equally shambolic.

It wasn’t always this way though. There was a time that EACC enjoyed a purple patch. But now, a history of inaction by a commission that seems to be stuck on first gear has set the hounds on itself.

Aldai MP Cornelly Serem is one of those who have smelled blood and wants a complete annihilation of EACC.

“The EACC appears to have a lack of capacity, given that approximately 90 per cent of its cases are thrown out of court due to lack of evidence or mishandling of cases,” Serem says in a letter to the Speaker of Parliament Justin Muturi.

In the letter, the Aldai MP, asks Muturi to direct Parliament’s Legal Services Department to help him draft a Bill that will set in motion a series of events to lead to the disbandment of the commission.

Serem further says that the EACC has demonstrated failure to address issues under its mandate given the rampant cases of corruption in the country.

He also says that there is no need for the EACC since many of its functions are being undertaken by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).

In its defense though, the EACC came armed with something more than the list of excuses read by Waqo. They also had a list of cases currently under investigation. Notably, none of those cases mentioned any of the scandals currently being pursued by the DCI.

The list read like a petty offender’s attendance sheet. Most of the cases were about people arrested for soliciting bribes of between Sh2,000 and Sh10,000. No mention of the billions looted during EACC’s watch.

“There is extreme apathy about the anti-corruption commission. There is talk that you should be disbanded,” Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr said of the EACC list.

In his defense, Waqo says that although they have been sidelined in some current cases, they claimed credit for investigations into the first NYS scandal and added that they have bigger cases before the DCI.

In the letter to Speaker Muturi, Serem also said that the commission should be disbanded on the simple fact that the money Kenyans are putting into it is not commensurate with its output.

Attempts to win the war against corruption predate the birth of the nation. However, over the last fifty years, Kenya consistently struggled to find her footing when confronted by runaway theft, and the EACC has over the same period consistently demonstrated an unwillingness to slay the dragon, preferring instead to pat it on the head, look the other way and pretend everything is alright.

 

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