In the last decade, Kenyans have lost billions of shilling to ingenious cons, wily thieves and pretentious knights in shining armour.
In a classic Stockholm syndrome, where hostages develop a psychological alliance with their captors, Kenyans have gone ahead to celebrate, embrace and decorate thieves.
The script has been similar as it is familiar; steal huge amounts of public funds, create a smoke around it, blame others and crucify a few, get away with it and seek public office for honours sake.
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With Kenya excelling in global corruption rankings, finishing 144 out of 180 countries in the latest 2018 one by Transparency International, it is a miracle that the country has not gone bankrupt.
As the country looks inwards into the last 10 years, the Saturday Standard looked into the corruption scandals and deduced what seems to be a pattern; how to successfully loot public coffers.
1. Run for office; the best shield you can ever wield
Your goal is to cart away public funds, but you shouldn’t go through a lot of trouble to do it. If stealing from the public was difficult we wouldn’t be having as many corruption scandals.
The easiest guarantee that your mission will be successful is if you are an elected leader. In Kenya, public funds are stolen by those close to power and powerful civil servants, so run for office or better yet lobby for your appointment to Cabinet or to lead a parastatal. Preferably a position like governor or MP where you will be charged with safeguarding public finances.
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Once you are elected you will have access to the National Government Constituency Development Fund (NGCDF), Affirmative Action Fund or county budgets. You will also be in a position to influence tendering, kickbacks from projects managed by the county government as well as those funded by the constituency development kitty.
2. Open multiple bank accounts, an offshore account will be an added advantage
You do not want to be carrying money around in sacks and attracting wrong attention. So, you make sure that the money you steal is paid through a bank account, and create a maze through electronic transfers so that investigators will sweat it out to figure out.
Create a network of dependable friends, especially at the top tiers of your banks, to cover you tracks. Creating friends with top tier banks is critical as they also oil the palms of regulators when they come checking their books.
To invest in relationship with your bank - from top to mid level managers- is to invest in your future. If you can rope in Central Bank of Kenya and financial reporting centre mandarins, the better. You can then afford to loot your way to an early and sudden death.
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3. Register shadow and shell companies
You will need a company, but to make sure the money does not trace back to you, you need to register companies that exist only on paper.
Thankfully, you do not need to go through the hassle of registering your company in Jersey or the Cayman Islands, Kenya is ranked as one of the easiest places to set up a shell company.
Kenya keeps poor records of company ownership and no one looks hard enough. For instance, one person could be the Company Secretary in hundreds of companies that have won state tenders and no one will find it suspicious.
Make the company as vague as possible, you could be doing general supplies, selling french beans and construction too. No human is limited, and dreams are valid. Supply cartridges and pens but also build a pipeline or a stadium.
There is comfort in knowing that due diligence is foreign concept in Kenya. No one will notice that you do not have the capacity or financing.
And by the way, you do not have to register these companies. In 2014, the National Youth Service awarded a multi-million shilling tender to an unregistered firm. The other way to go around it, is to register a company after you’ve already been paid.
4. Involve your family; DCI will be hitting below the belt
The best way to hide money is if you do it in plain sight. Therefore, involve as many of your family members and friends as possible.
To distance yourself from taint, have the kickbacks channeled through the bank accounts of your associates, spouse or children.
They do not say blood is thicker than water for nothing. Family is best bet to keep your secret but is also the best investment.
Do not worry that they might still be in school and it is impossible that they could have so much money in their bank account. Even the governor of the country’s biggest city was making millions in high school from land deals.
If the anti-corruption investigators care to check, you will complain that they are hitting below the belt by involving your family.
Kenyans value family, they will buy it
5. Nothing is off limits; go the whole hog
If you set your mind to theft, go in the whole hog. Again, no human is limited- not a Kenyan thief.
The goal here is to make sure you steal enough to build an empire that can outlast your conviction.
Do not let your empathy for the suffering public hold you back. There might be patients dying in hospitals for lack of drugs, or pedestrians and motorists killed on the road because you made a few
compromises in the plan or retirees who lost their life savings because their file went missing, but all these are collateral damage.
Look to the bright future and the opportunities that it accords you. Kenyans are resilient lot. They will move on and new scandals will replace yours.
7. Inflate the costs without shame
It shouldn’t matter if you are supplying a ball point pen, a wheelbarrow or maize as long as you are supplying the government.
The value of your supply to government is what you agree with the mandarins at the office which has requested the supplies.
Do not be naive, to get away give the market prices, you will be laughed out of town. Quote high prices knowing the “eating chain” is expansive and you will need to take something home.
8. Don’t reinvent the wheel
You are not doing anything that hasn’t been done before so be a copycat. Before you, people have supplied whitewash for chlorine and they are alive and kicking in this city.
You do not have to be original in your theft but you can re-jig the plot. If you read the papers or watch television, you have definitely heard how other scams were pulled off, so follow the script.
Kenyan investigators are poor at pulling off old plots so they will not catch you. If you doubt, just tell us who ever paid for Goldenberg or Anglo Leasing.
For instance, to pocket kickbacks for contracts awarded by the government, simply have the money channeled back to you or your associates bank account by the companies that ‘won’ the bids.
Or to spin a larger web, have those contractors wire money into your associates accounts and then have your associates wire it to you.
9. Be imaginative; open your eyes and ears
It shouldn’t matter that the project you are tendering for is for the construction of a reservoir, or that the service you offer or the goods you supply do not fit.
Contractors have been paid millions of shillings to deliver towels, pillows, food and wine as part of the contract to do other things not related with those.
Always remember that this is Kenya and the opportunities are unlimited as they are “unliminet.”
Polish thyself well; good clad, perfume and car. Walk around the corridors of power and keep both an eye and an ear for the opportunities. And seize them.
10. Conceive, convince, collect
If you have access to the ear of a big shot, make the most of the opportunity. The era of whispering to them sweet nothings and singing their psalms ended with Mulu Mutisya and Kariuki Chotara.
Access to big shots means you can convince them to buy your grand ideas. Conceive a project that is unnecessary or impossible, show them what is there for them and they will convince the government to go ahead with it.
You will have earned your day and nobody will guess anything until you are oiled enough to afford the most expensive lawyers in town, buy judges and pay off DCI.
Again, you are not reinventing the wheel. Remember NYS scam started with a four-point vision and look how many opportunities it created.
11. Finance a political party or candidate
Despite the provisions on funding of political parties, the system is still opaque, opening the door wide to door of possibilities.
With the rules on disclosure of sources of finance for political parties weak, and the parties obscuring the sources of their financing and expenditure look at it as an investment opportunity.
Invest your billions in a political candidate, preferably a president or governor, if your investment pans out and they are elected then you will have a ‘friend’ in office who owes you a favor.
12. There are sacred cows, do not be deceived
Do not be afraid when government officials declare that the proverbial sword of Damocles is hanging over your head. It has been hanging like that for eternity.
Focus on what the officials do, rather than at what they say, you will be more assured.
If the pressure becomes too much resign from your seat if your are in government. If you are charged, think of it as a minor inconvenience, even a passing cloud.
The public will cheer that finally some action is being taken against corruption but you will smile smugly because you know you are a sacred cow and the public are jesters entertaining the fat cats.
Kenyans will forget and you will retreat to your home county to vie for an elective seat.
13. Ignore the courts; they are a distraction
Do not stress yourself about obeying court orders, if the court orders you to stay away from your office you can always sneak back at night with escort of the same cops supposed to arrest you.
Besides the court, there is Senate and a National Assembly which also wield judicial and political powers.
Whenever you have a court appearance, gather a few people to demonstrate and issue press conferences insisting that you are being persecuted.
14. Remember you belong to a tribe, do charity
In Kenya everyone belongs to a tribe. Make the most of your tribal identity.
If you are caught, remember you come from an ethnic community. Protest that the people who don’t want your community to prosper have come for you.
Get them to feel that you are being targeted for no apparent reason. If you can get involved in charity events the better.
People will any day go for Barnabas who shares the loot than the Jesus who only share the values. Values will take you to jail the soonest.
15. Invest in quality friends
You are judges by the company you keep. Do not hang around low-lives. Get a good residence address and join a respectable club. Learn how to play golf and groom yourself accordingly.
You need to have friends in professional associations, clubs, media houses, regulators and Parliament.
Invest in friends at the Company Registry to make sure your file disappears when the nosy members of the fourth estate or DCI come calling.
The most important thing is to act swiftly, if one person smells the coffee, bring them on board the fastest possible.