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Why we must be angry over Kenya's lost billions

By Kipkoech Tanui | March 13th 2015

NAIROBI: It is in times like these that we should all get angry when we look at our payslips or shopping receipts, with a special focus on the deductions by the taxman.

In Journalism classes, they teach that news stories should be structured like an inverted pyramid, with the most important facts on top.

This helps first in capturing the interest of the reader by stacking the spellbinding aspects at the beginning, and what may not be missed at the bottom.

Secondly, whoever is editing will know where to start ‘cutting’ the story to fit the space allocated in case it is too long.

But in the nearly two decades I have served my country as a journalist, I have come to analogously look at my payslip as an inverted pyramid.

It is bigger at the top and needle-sharp at the bottom, as the salary is nibbled away by deductions, especially Pay As You Eat (sorry, Earn)!

But unfortunately, unlike the story where the less urgent facts are stacked at the bottom, in the payslip the most important part is what is at the base.

The same goes for shopping and service payment receipts. It is these taxes that run the economy, as Government is not exactly a business entity, like the Chinese one.

These taxes form the billions at the disposal of government bureaucrats to either steal or funnel (only the coins?) to national development.

The reason we should be angry is that we must draw a direct line between our deductions and the stories of billions stolen or unaccounted-for by State agents and their co-conspirators.

But it does not stop there; we must be really angry when, for instance, you read that in the wisdom of His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, it is OK to just turn over Sh100 million or so to finance an African Human Rights Court to counter the International Criminal Court, with which they have an axe to grind.

We should be angry at the stench of corruption coming out of Parliament – where MPs have formed extortion cartels – with one of the biggest paymasters being a notorious office at Harambee House whose interests include getting the legislators to ‘doctor’ a report on Sh8.2 billion unaccounted-for to Sh2.8 billion; by just reversing the 2 and 8 like kindergarten kids.

Stunned by the billions reported either as wasted or lost in public offices, we seem to have resigned to the notion that this is the way things will always be; that the murky confluence formed by power, politics and money will forever flow across our land.

Because the figures being talked about are too much for our minds to either compute or process, we simply give up.

When we look at the deductions from our pay and shopping receipts, it may seem too little, but then it is the 40 million of us baking the cake for the greedy few.

It should make us really angry when you look at the fact that some other undisclosed billions will go to UK former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

See, we are now his clients courtesy of State House; we shall pay him the way private firms do public relation companies, to clean our leaking noses before the glare of the international community.

Yes, we are going to pay him, yet the President already has many ‘advisors’ paid from our tax!

But we must never forget that old primary school lesson; that for a cup to be clean, it must be washed inside and out.

If the outside is cleaner, it will still be dirty. Worse still, the inside is where the contents of what you will serve yourself with will mix with the dirt, leading to waterborne diseases.

So, even as we retain Blair to ‘whitewash’ our image abroad, alongside another American firm, the question we should be asking ourselves is whether it’s a priority.

Have we exhausted our needs to consider what we give the African Union to counter ICC as the kind of loose change we normally throw at beggars?

At the counties, the eating spree is worse, with one governor revealing how MCAs shamelessly and on the floor of the debating chamber ask what is there for them in the budget before they approve it. Police, journalists, medics, administrators, lawyers, developers et al are salivating at the counties’ cash troughs as if the money being fought for isn’t anyone’s. Yes, it is ours and we must be treated with respect.

As signs sprout from every corner that the tree of corruption is now greener, well-watered and manicured, the President gives parastatals two weeks to file their strategies for fighting corruption; something they can do in ten minutes.

Meanwhile, the corrupt cartels he once conceded were also to be found in OP are reporting to work daily as usual!

That is why to me the Anglo Leasing arrests may just be another spanner in the works, to make us look the other way.

Our pain is aggravated by the shame playing out at Integrity Centre itself!

I have not heard or seen anything yet that convinces me that anyone is serious in fighting corruption, not even the President.

For we know exactly what they would do to drive the message home and scare away the itchy hands.

We wouldn’t even have had the Singhs and the Langata Road Primary School story!

In fact we would have known that from the number of people they would have done away with in their company.

No, we shall have to fight for breath under this pungent smell of corruption from bloated bowels spewing its way to our noses from the top offices, for a long time.

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