Mudavadi puts PSs at centre of war on graft

Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The government is working on an anti-corruption strategy that will have Principal Secretaries (PSs) at the forefront of preventing scandals.

The plan involves establishing corruption prevention committees to be chaired by PSs as decided in a meeting of National Development Implementation Committee (NDIC).

Prime Cabinet Secretary (PCS) Musalia Mudavadi, who chairs the NDIC that also comprises Head of Public Service Felix Kosgey and all PSs, raised concern about a damning report by the country's anti-corruption watchdog that revealed the deeply-rooted graft in public bodies.

"The NDIC took note of the damning National Ethics and Corruption Survey report, 2023 published by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC). Principal Secretaries were reminded of their responsibilities to the citizens and urged to ensure that no corruption was tolerated within their respective domains. Furthermore, all state departments were directed to establish corruption prevention committees, which will be chaired by the Principal Secretaries in person. Through this, the government aims to redouble its efforts to fight corruption," a dispatch from the meeting held last Thursday reads in part.

It was the first meeting of the committee that oversees implementation of all national government programmes, policies and projects in 2024.

Mudavadi expressed confidence that having PSs, the accounting officers in ministries, leading from the front would help avert mega corruption scandals in the government. The NDIC further touted the move as a positive step in establishing a conducive environment for business to thrive.

Many businesses have suffered demands for kickbacks to set up, access contracts and payment for their services. The nation has recently witnessed a series of scandals such as the fake fertiliser and the Sh1.5 billion edible oils deal as well as scams at National Health Insurance Fund and Kenya Medical Supplies Authority. There has also been controversy in the oil importation deal with Gulf companies.

Similarly, a recent United States Trade Office report flagged Kenya for corruption in awarding tenders, with government officials demanding bribes in exchange for contracts to multinational firms. The effect has seen American firms lose business with East Africa's largest economy.

The corruption prevention committees will be mandated to prevent mega graft and procurement-related scandals. The Standard has established that corruption prevention will be a parameter in measuring the performance of PSs.

Mudavadi also extended the call to set up corruption prevention committees in Regulatory Authorities and Agencies (RAAs), urging heads of such bodies to lead the way.

"RAAs must not be dens of corruption or rent-seeking, they must carry out their core mandates effectively and in the national interest," the PCS said recently while calling for an assessment of RAAs to establish whether the bodies are aligned with national interests.

"We cannot ignore the possibility that some regulatory practices may inadvertently impede business activities," added Mudavadi.

The fake fertiliser scandal has brought to the fore the crucial role of regulatory institutions in preventing corruption.

The Kenya Bureau of Standards, one of the agencies, has been on the spot over its failure to prevent the scam, with Opposition Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya coalition accusing it of complacency.

"After the completion of the fertiliser investigations, those found culpable will face the full force of the law. Further, PSs were guided to ensure that the laws relating to procurement were fully complied with," added the NDIC dispatch.