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Come down hard on IDP fund looters

By | June 4th 2010 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Kenya is jaywalking towards economic and social disaster. Everything the leaders lay their hands on seems to turn into mud.

The silence has been so loud it just exploded after reports that the millions of shillings Government set aside to settle Internally Displaced Persons in Rift Valley and Central provinces had, predictably, ended up in private pockets.

Sad really, considering the miserable existence such pilferage has left IDPs that were displaced from their homes following the 2007 disputed presidential poll results are still waiting for handouts they were promised.

Currently, only a fraction of the 350,000 people displaced following the violence have a roof over their heads since a good number are still living in camps in the two provinces.

What was routinely dismissed by various ministers and provincial administrators as empty talk by rights activists to sweeten the ears of foreign donors and humanitarian relief agencies, has turned out to have been very lonely voices in the dark.

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Reports of senior provincial administrators being probed over alleged embezzlement of more than Sh500 million meant for Internally Displaced Persons are disturbing and shameful.

Shameful because these were people in a privileged position reaping from the misery of helpless, homeless and downtrodden beggars.

Roadside hovels

The massive response from none other than the Office of the President’s Ministry of Special Programmes and involving all line ministries including Education, Environment, Internal Security, the State Law Office, the Prime Minister’s Office, Treasury and even Parliament, was commendable at the time.

The personalities that led the response appeared co-ordinated, detailed and unprecedented.

Despite the show of force from the highest office in the land, 22 DCs in the two provinces are left with the unenviable task of explaining how funds and materials channeled through their offices were spent, why there are people still languishing in roadside hovels and how tents and building materials were alleged diverted by some officers for personal use.

Some are already putting up defences, saying they were transferred en masse after failing to sanction fraud against the poor. Only time will tell. But the investigation must be thorough and the ensuing punitive action sufficiently deterrent because the looters’ footprints ended up on the doorstep of the Office of the President.

That office must come out sparkling clean over this mess to restore Kenyans’ faith in our institutions of governance. The President’s directive to concerned ministries was unambiguous and did not include "Go ye forth and plunder!".

Any administrator or politician who illegally gained from the misery of IDPs should be stripped of rank, charged in court for crimes against humanity and their assets seized for onward presentation to the deserving internal refugees.

Much too often this media house has come out strongly to condemn theft of public property. We have seen the manipulation of procurements of essential drugs for treatable common ailments like flu, malaria and TB, or even life-prolonging ones like anti-retrovirals.

The rot was evident in the tendering for the now delivered Likoni Channel ferries, Government vehicles, office equipment, schoolbooks and so forth.

Subsidised imported maize for starving masses was also targetted, while system hiccups have dogged police and prison services leaving them immobile and unable to respond to rising crime with any urgency.

Entrenched cronyism

Dams have remained silted so that expensive independent power production units are routinely contracted to the ‘rescue’. Ambassadorial, parastatal and other plum appointments usually reek of entrenched cronyism, ethnicity and old boy networks.

Economic relief schemes like the women and youth funds become fair game and a gravy train for the well connected not too long ago. But now, here is a chance for the Government to act on the Head of State’s zero tolerance to corruption.

Half measures won’t do in the face of the pitiful, roadside desperation of thousands of IDPs three years on.

Internally Displaced Persons IDPs Likoni Channel ferries
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