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 President Uhuru Kenyatta-led war on corruption.
For those of us, a majority of Kenyans, who have not stolen or misappropriated funds or provided false procurement to family or friends, the war on corruption should be only seen as an extremely positive development. One that sees money that was meant to help our nation and communities progress and develop return for these essential needs.
However, for the minority of Kenyans who see opportunities to enrich themselves at the nation’s expense, the war on corruption should be a nightmare.
When in his Madaraka Day address, President Kenyatta laid out the terms of this war that many of Kenya’s civil servants will have to undertake a lifestyle audit, there were those who shuddered.
He made it clear that no one would manage to avoid this scrutiny, not even himself or Vice-President William Ruto.
The audit 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. Dishonestly inclined professionals are able to conceal their frauds with disturbing alacrity and ease, particularly in work environments with weak controls or limited segregation of duty.
Sometimes, the only clue to corruption is a sudden unexplained change in an employee’s lifestyle. These 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. Civil servants are supposed to be clear of any suspicion, especially on how they manage public resources. They need to be above suspicion of stealing from the public. A lifestyle audit is the tool that clears them of such suspicions, or finds them guilty and opens more detailed investigations.
This means that the lifestyle audits are an annoyance and even a problem for some, but an absolutely vital tool in this war against the rampant disease of corruption. Only those who have something to hide have every reason to fear.
It is deeply gratifying then to hear that after two months of gruelling vetting, 400 heads of procurement and accounting departments in government have been allowed back to work after passing the audits.
Of the workers put through the lifestyle audit, Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua said on Friday last week, 70 per cent had proven to be clean.
Sources say that those officers with queries on their wealth were grilled by the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji and recorded testimonies.
The grilling was coordinated from the Office of the President, and the National Intelligence Service who provided most of the background information that was then assessed based on what the officers declared in provided wealth forms.
The order to vet the officers was made by President Kenyatta, and acted upon by Mr Kinyua, who asked all officers in that rank to step aside.
The vetting, President Kenyatta had said, was expected to end before the start of the 2018/19 financial year on July 1. “Those who shall fail the vetting will stand suspended. You will hear of other tougher actions in the days to come,” President Kenyatta said.
In a perfect world, lifestyle audits would not be necessary. Unfortunately, we do not live in such a world and we need to constantly be rethinking ways to catch the thieves. The lifestyle audits are working and for the peaceful and law-abiding majority of Kenyans, we should be embracing them.
-The writer is MP, Laikipia North