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EACC must keep the public in Kenya informed

By Kihiko Murigu | July 19th 2016 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Auditor General Edward Ouko recently presented a report to Parliament detailing how Sh1.3 billion was siphoned out of the National Youth Service (NYS) by corrupt officials acting in cahoots with well-connected individuals.

The latest findings add yet another twist to a high-profile scam that undermined a noble project to empower thousands of Kenyan youth.

Ouko’s report reveals a clever scheme in which the NYS lost money through manipulation of the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) by insiders and external agents.

The Sh1.3 billion alleged to have been siphoned this way includes a sum of Sh791 million initially said to have been lost through stolen passwords and forged documents.

While the Auditor General has demonstrated commitment to get to the bottom of this matter, the same cannot be said of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), whose investigations into the NYS scam are shrouded in mystery. Allegations of external meddling aside, EACC is yet to make public its findings on certain aspects of the investigations.

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This despite EACC creating media frenzy by summoning certain “big fish” in the full glare of TV cameras and spending millions of shillings of taxpayers’ money on multiple probes.

In fact, EACC has lately been accused of withholding files where the outcome is not as expected; for instance, where suspects are found not culpable of wrongdoing.

This can perhaps be explained by the propensity by EACC to conduct knee-jerk investigations without credible leads so as to be seen as working. A case in point was the much-publicised raids on the houses of suspects ostensibly to retrieve documents and money.

Such raids, including the one at the house of a former Cabinet secretary, have yielded little evidence. Such actions serve to undermine the credibility of the war on corruption leading to an increasingly cynical public.
In certain cases pending before court, aggrieved persons have challenged EACC for violating their constitutional rights through arbitrary and unwarranted investigations.

This is not good for an institution tasked with instilling ethics and integrity among public officers. When the reputation and credibility of the EACC is routinely questioned over glaring failures of its own making, there is need for a total re-think of how the agency conducts its business.

A thorough audit of EACC’s approach to the war on corruption is needed. Additionally, the anti-graft body must release the findings of the investigations it has completed including those where suspects have been found innocent of wrong-doing.

The courts never hesitate to acquit those found innocent of criminal charges. Likewise, EACC must bite the bullet and admit where it has failed to find credible evidence to sustain a conviction. This it should do without political or legal pressure.

I believe it is high time that we held the EACC directors personally responsible for politically motivated and malicious investigations and for failing to disclose exonerating evidence against suspects.

That is the only sure way of insulating the war on corruption against external influences and political score-settling.

The war on corruption will be doomed if those mandated with dealing with the vice do not uphold the law and right of every Kenyan to fair due process.

Moreover, the much-hyped probes will amount to nothing but witch-hunts capable of spawning multiple and expensive litigation by those wrongly subjected to arbitrary and traumatizing investigations. This will only further stall an already struggling war on corruption.

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