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OPINION: Secure all the money and property suspected to proceed from corruption as probe continues

UREPORT
By Bwire Mugolla | June 8th 2018

Our young men and women are said to have, lately, lost some Sh10 million through the gymnastics officers and officials at the Youth Fund have been playing, a short period after another Sh180m somersaulted into the legendary thin air.

In the forests of this country, over Sh2b belonging to the taxpayer is reported to have been hidden by guys who were supposed to be planting trees. Our parliamentary representatives are whispered to have aided us to lose Sh8b in some land deal in Nairobi’s Karen neighbourhood. At the country’s topmost international airport, JKIA, some Sh55.6billion is believed to have been flown away. We are also informed that the police were used as an excuse to deflect off some Sh15b in a CCTV surveillance system that cannot help track a 70-seater bus stolen at midday in the city centre. And there are more!

Were it not that the country is blessed with a very deep and wide reservoir of hard cash, these people would have finished us all with poverty by now. We have heavens to thank for the generous friends we have cultivated over the years to whom we run all the time for ever-increasing credit to run the country and provide a bank for even more robbery.

But even this generosity must have some elasticity limit! Who will continue lending us when it becomes so clear that the thieves will run away with the entire loan and we may not be able to generate enough to repay the loan?

But it looks like some people in the government seem to have noticed the obvious self-destruction tendency and reacting to salvage us from the imminent extermination. President Uhuru Kenyatta, it seems, has identified a few good men and is working on a rescue mission, albeit a belated one. Didn’t the sages say better late than never?

We are seeing some high and mighty characters being hauled, in handcuffs, before courts of law and onto remand cells thanks to the renewed enthusiasm in the fight against looting of public coffers. Though there are whispers that some people are still enjoying some immunity for their impunity, what we have witnessed in the last week or so is a sign that sooner than later, every thief will have her day in court and join her fellow thieving convicts in prisons. When this happens, the country will breathe a sigh of relief and it will be a lesson to any potential thief that punishment awaits them.

But that is not good enough. The punishment given to those found culpable for stealing from the Kenyan masses must meet the threshold of all the four Rs of restorative justice: Responsibility, Restitution, Rehabilitation and Restoration. It will be an anti-climax, for instance, if one found guilty of stealing Sh9b is slapped with a fine of Sh100,000- the price of a towel in another jurisdiction- like we have witnessed in the past.

And maybe this is where we should start.

Acknowledging that money has been lost should immediately trigger the need to get it back even before we seek to establish who is responsible for the loss. The investigating team should have in its midst experts in asset recovery to flag and freeze any property and money suspected to have been stolen.

Knowing that the money under investigation was pilfered mostly electronically from banks, it is highly probable that it left behind a trail. It is this trail that should be followed and everything in its way paused as we wait for the conclusion of the investigation. Every property suspected to have been bought with the proceeds of corruption ought to be taken over by the State from the onset to reduce the chance of the culprits “cleaning” it. It is a good thing that we already have in place the Asset Recovery Agency under the State Law Office whose mandate includes the seizure of all proceeds of crime. Although the law holds that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, this provision does not provide umbrage for suspected thieves and their beneficiaries to continue enjoying their loot as the slow wheels of justice grind on.

 The Asset Recovery Agency should move in with speed and freeze all property owned by the suspects, including personal and businesses accounts and those of their associates. The commercial banks which processed the shady payments also need to redeem themselves by not only providing information to investigators but also ensuring there are no withdrawals or transfers made from the accounts under probe until all investigations are completed and judgement made.

 

Bwire Mugolla is a high school teacher in Busia County

[email protected]

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