Parliament should lead way in uprooting endemic corruption

National Assembly session in progress in the chambers chaired by Speaker Moses Wetangula. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The reported mega corruption in the government early this week was not just the routine work of media digging out a story to run. This time, the government admitted that Nyayo House where Immigration and other government services are delivered, the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) visa issuance and luggage clearance processes, the Sports scandal linked with the Ministry's top honchos, among other institutions, are rotten to the core.

Remember the Covid-19 millionaires? The Kemsa scandals? The poisoned sugar scandals? The list is endless. In fact, corruption has become normalised to the extent that we really do not get upset as a country that some individuals are milking citizens dry.  

Reading and following media stories on corruption makes one wonder whether there is law and order in Kenya. On the one hand, we have a government that swears it has an obligation to protect property, lives and security of everyone so citizens can go about their duties undisturbed.

Great commitment. On the other hand, it is the same government that is crying out how ministries are unashamedly corrupt. It is the same government that struggled to explain why it took a long time to handle power outage in a timely manner, particularly in strategic places like airports and hospitals last week. As usual, the blame game and finger pointing started earnestly.

Let me also point fingers. Yes, our Parliament is not the most inspiring institution in deterring corruption. The ‘House of the People’ as I prefer to call it, should be the one most sensitive and responsive to corrupt cases.

However, its parliamentary processes often relayed live to the public leave a lot to be desired. For instance, some of the incompetent Cabinet Secretaries and their lieutenants were vetted by this House and, apparently, found to be of good standing to hold high level public office.

Hardly a year, the same people have had to be dressed down by their boss in public and made to sign performance contracts. Did they have to go that far before realising they are adding minimal value to spurring developmental growth in their respective ministries? Empirically, there is a strong correlation between incompetent leaders and corruption.

I still point fingers at Parliament. The seeds of corruption are planted, germinated and manured by the House that is meant to legislate, oversight and represent citizens. Take the example of political party defectors. The Political Party Act is very clear even for legal dwarfs like myself.

The moment a member (elected or not) “joins another political party; or promotes the ideology, interests or policies of another party, he or she shall be deemed to have resigned from the previous political party.”

The ease with which a legislative house allows members to abuse the political party rules to publicly campaign for a party or coalition other than the one that sponsored them to Parliament opens doors for many other rules to be broken at will. In a word, this is brewing corruption. What legal and moral credibility then is left for the parliamentary committees to summon corruption suspects?

Parliament must set the record straight on its rightful place to uproot the entrenched corruption culture in Kenya. It has the privileges that no other institution has in cleaning up government offices that practice corruption. Parliament has, at its disposal, institutional and public mandate to go for corrupt persons in the Executive and even the Judiciary.

The House of Honorables has no excuse whatsoever to play political games at the expense of the people it represents. This august House shall not be used to justify mediocrity in the public service since it is the apex point of hope for citizens.

Individual members elected should feel, rightfully so, most privileged to serve their country the same way our service men and women in the security sector do. Parliamentarians should find it in their hearts to mind about the future they are passing to children and grandchildren. History can be cruel.   

Dr Mokua is the executive director of Loyola Centre for Media and Communication

By AFP 7 hrs ago
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