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Ideas & Debate

Fight against graft in Kenya needs an all-inclusive plan

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission offices in Nairobi.
The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission offices in Nairobi. A Kisumu anti-corruption court has ordered the arrest and prosecution of the chief executive officer of a regional water board over corruption and abuse of office. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Over the past six months a series of events have given Kenyans some hope that this time around we may be on the right path in shaking the roots of corruption.

We are of course coming from an era where corruption has traditionally been tolerated and corruptly obtained wealth idolised.

For this reason, there is still much pessimism among many in Kenya that the ongoing war on corruption may end up as naught. This is genuinely understandable considering the many anti-corruption false starts in the past.

However, my observation is that the ongoing fight against corruption could yield results if sufficiently supported by all.

The fight against corruption cannot survive merely on the push of top leadership. There must be in place support from effective and sustainable systems and institutions that can routinely function without prompting or interference. And recently some of these institutions have been undergoing a real-life test.

Energised

Recently, the anti-corruption voices have been numerous and loud. On top has been the president who has often demonstrated his frustration over corruption. Frustration has apparently energised him to take definite corrective actions irrespective of political implications.

With clear and strong messages and actions from the top leadership it becomes easier to address corruption. This is an essential and critical starting point.

Second in line in the crusade against corruption is certainly the media which has been consistent in its anti-corruption messages and analysis.

The other key anti-corruption voices have included the Opposition, civil society, and a number of foreign offices with well intentioned interests in Kenya.

The styles among these anti-corruption players obviously vary, but the message has essentially been the same; that corruption is anti-development, theft of taxpayer’s resources and a punishable crime.

I judge that the D-Day on the fight against corruption occurred when the list of shame was published with names of senior public servants suspected to have engaged in corruption.

The list may not have been exhaustive but it certainly put on notice the entire Civil Service that the game has changed and that even the mighty can be named, and prosecuted.

The scope of the listing was certainly unprecedented in Kenyan history and signalled for the first time the beginning of a comprehensive push to reduce corruption in public offices.

However, it is the processing of the listed suspects that provides an opportunity to test whether the investigative, prosecutorial and judicial processes as intended in our Constitution can in reality flow with full fairness and without undue interference.

If this process succeeds and achieves these standards, then Kenya will have moved a major step ahead in the war against corruption. If the process is derailed by whatever causes, then I am afraid we shall have lost momentum on the war on corruption.

The other recent major achievement by the government is the establishment of “detective” monitoring systems that can independently detect and intercept corrupt activities in good time.

We saw this at work when alleged irregularities at the NYS were recently detected and intercepted by the government budgeting, accounting and payments system which creates a live audit trail.

The other recently launched system with similar detective capacity is the e-procurement system that can document the audit trails of all public procurement.

If properly implemented the two systems can go a long way in minimising opportunities for procurement-related corruption.

This is a case of using the available ICT technology to reduce loss of public resources through fraud, theft and corruption. I am sure that there are numerous other areas where similar technology and systems can be used to reduce frequency of corruption.

However, the President will need to quickly decide how he is going to address the non-procurement corruption, especially in the services and regulatory enforcement areas. Indeed these are the areas where the majority of electorate encounters corruption.

Many of them will never know or understand about the mega project corruption, but they will easily narrate their daily experiences in the hands of corrupt law enforcers and service providers.

We, however, need to acknowledge the successes of Huduma centres in reducing corruption through the provision of routine government services.

The recent crackdown on illicit alcoholic drinks came after a number of authorities failed to do their jobs, mostly due to corruption. There are definitely many other areas that call for similar crackdowns followed by sustainable enforcement.
I need to acknowledge and appreciate one director of National Campaign Against Drugs Abuse who last week threatened to resign if the corrupt ongoings at the regulatory body are not addressed.

Many directors of public institutions are directly or indirectly culpable because they sit back knowing well that corruption is going on in their institutions.

I will here share my own experience. In 2004, I resigned from the board of a key logistics parastatal when it became clear that no one was ready to address corruption in that corporation.

In the following year, when a new minister “cleaned up” the company, I was asked to accept to be re-appointed to the same board, which I accepted.

It is evident from recent events that Kenya can and should keep on the path towards a country with reduced corruption. We need to appreciate the efforts of all the players in this anti-corruption crusade.

Further, there is need to continue supporting the President’s anti-corruption efforts, specifically by contributing solutions.

Mr Wachira is a director, Petroleum Focus Consultants. Email: [email protected]

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