New EACC chair must win wars others lost

President William Ruto’s nominee for Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) chair, David Oginde. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Once upon a time, there was a comical but dreaded operation called ‘kamata kamata Friday.’

It rattled the high and mighty. However crude, it was a moment in the sun for mandarins at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and the Director of Public Prosecutions’ office.

The agencies hogged the limelight with major arrests every Friday. Those arrested would be guests of the State over the weekend. That time, graft war seemed winnable. Kenyans hoped the vice would end, and the impervious made to pay for their sins.

Before the Friday arrests gained pace, there was the ‘hot air’ of asking top public officers to declare their wealth. The then ‘dynamic duo’ of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto declared they would be the first to face the audit followed by their Cabinet.

It was followed by another populist ‘red herring’ of asking procurement officers to step aside. They were to be grilled on sources of their wealth while being taken through a lie detector test. This came as Uhuru got incensed by fears that Kenya was losing Sh2 billion to plunder daily.

Nothing earthshaking happened. Instead, top officials of the Jubilee administration chose to turn into frowns whenever the graft subject was broached. President Kenyatta, at one point, cast aside the fight and asked ‘what do you want me to do? The malady was simply fighting back!

Memorable scams – such as Goldernberg, Grand Regency, Kemsa, NYS, Chickengate, Arror and Kimwarer, the laptops tender and the Afya (Mafya) House scandal - have only but affirmed our place as the unequal society with unbridled greed.

In the song ‘Grenade’ by Bruno Mars, he says “easy come easy go…that’s just how you live”. Same fashion, ‘kamata kamata Friday’ came and quickly went. In its place, the DCI and DPP have dropped cases like hot iron. Meanwhile, those straddled in the lower socio-economic cadres are feeling the pinch as the powerful, who benefit from graft, cry loud as if they mean it.

In the new dispensation under President Ruto, graft must be stopped in its tracks. I have previously argued that Ruto must succeed where his predecessors failed. It is his chance to make history.

This is why it was refreshing to see Ruto’s nominee for Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) chair David Oginde ooze energy and grit during his vetting by MPs on Wednesday.

Bishop Oginde is rooting for introduction of strict time frames for processing high-profile graft cases. He wants cases presented in court be water-tight and the threshold of dismissing cases raised. If approved for the job, Kenyans will bank on the good bishop’s stewardship in this intimidating office whose previous holders like PLO Lumumba and Phillip Kinisu bit the dust. For Oginde, a good starting point would be undoing the warped thinking that some people are above the law. The penchant for having sacred cows has badly enfeebled integrity laws.

Likewise, the new chair should be wary of attempts to always tuck away every little or important detail of what the political elite owns. Opacity around wealth of the ‘big fish’ is the reason graft war has been a shadow-boxing affair.

Stealthy ways have done the trick for the privileged few and given them the ticket to loot Kenya. If he lands the job, Oginde should be unforgiving even if the Bible in Mathew Chapter 6 verse 14, requires Christians to forgive others’ transgressions.    

Greed should no longer be a feel-good affair. Let EACC make life hard for tenderpreneurs, tax evaders and those who stash stolen cash abroad. No more scapegoats.

Importantly, the incoming chairman must de-weaponise Integrity Centre and focus on restoring political, social and financial accountability, which we lack. It can be done. Godspeed, Bishop!

-The writer is an editor at The Standard. Twitter: @markoloo