Ideas & Debate

Kenya needs real war on graft, not PR stunts

Michael Kamau Nairobi home
An Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission officer scales the gate at former Transport secretary Michael Kamau’s Nairobi home. FILE photo | nmg 

Let’s start from the beginning. Killing people will not stop corruption in Kenya. Sacking fat-bellied finance and procurement government staff through lie-detector tests is pure camera, and probably illegal.

Reshuffling and redeploying our veritable Titanic deck of senior officials is a joke; recent public appointments tell us that the reward for domestic failure is foreign jobs. 

We are clearly not reading Article 226 (5) of our Constitution, which remind us that, “If the holder of a public office, including a political office, directs or approves the use of public funds contrary to law or instructions, the person is liable for any loss arising from that use and shall make good the loss, whether the person remains the holder of the office or not”.

In simple language, your theft as a public official (as thief or accessory to the fact) stays with you for life.

Forget the Government Contracts Act that absolved public officials from plunder and blunder. No surprises when that named NYS-IFMIS chap “disappeared” himself, and is now officially a fugitive.

That young people, who carry sacks of NYS money out of the bank into basement parkings are still not in jail speaks to our hitherto underwhelming and manipulated investigative and prosecutorial skills and motivations, not our fast-reforming Judiciary that makes decisions based on the facts on the table.

When senior bureaucrats say, like Shaggy, “it wasn’t me”, it’s time for hara-kiri. They must fall on their swords, not be rewarded with fresh appointments that cleanse their previous scenes of crime.

Then there’s our IFMIS scapegoat. So we hear about password theft, multiple identity, and then, with NYS Episode 2, the theft of contracted work. That “fake” suppliers were paid from “genuine” supplier contracts is a sorry indictment.

It reminds us that Julius Nyerere once called us a “man-eat-man” society. Before his “bandit economy” prognosis of Kenya, CJ Emeritus Willy Mutunga liked to point out that corruption has its own Vision 2030. 

“Catwalking” seems to be our new “face” of corruption; a front that befuddles and bamboozles every Public Accounts Committee with a pretty face, great weave, lovely legs and an incredulous, yet gripping, storytale. “Kids” are a new angle, Court No 1 must sympathise, right?

Meanwhile the real saboteurs of Kenya relax. These are the people who don’t care. They know that Kenya has many public (policy) problems.  They are in, or close to, our political leadership. They only engage government with private solutions.

An incompetent government enjoys “quick and dirty” ideas.  This is a result of biased design from our colonial times, inherited by freedom fighters, who became beauraucratic capitalists. Consequently the best, smartest people in Kenya today wouldn’t touch government appointments with a ten-foot pole.

But they vote for political leaders expecting difference, or better. Then we get a Cabinet Secretary, who tells us that one needs Sh200 billon to be president?

Let’s finish with the end.  When we strip out hyperbole and showbiz, President Uhuru Kenyatta confuses politics with procurement. If the evidence is right, the wrong people go to jail. And our national storytelling continues to the point where our next election is decided by whoever is the smartest thief.

One would have thought that was the ultimate point of the “Handshake”.  To fix all of our nonsense. To sort out our police, particularly the investigative part. To properly fund and accept our real accountability institutions – financial (KENAO, COB et al) and human (KNCHR, Gender Commission et al). To work with a civil society that has the right to ask great questions, not be raided to find silly answers.

But “bigly”, as Trump would say, to decimate our “New Ugly”. The predatory mali ya umma (government property is no one’s thing) behaviour that relies on our national culture of theft and corruption is now joined at the hip in a brand new ecosystem between politics and public service. 

In two words, “political reform” is the handshake’s purpose.

Mr Kenyatta’s “Big Four” will not be his legacy. As our first full term President under the new Constitution, his job is to deliver “constitutionalism”. It starts with draining the swamp of thieves; but it rests on his personal “theory of government” – solving problems or creating them? 

That’s his fundamental corruption dilemma. If he can’t solve it, unhappy, frustrated and better educated Kenyans will. 

We love our country far more than our love for politicians.

Let’s prepare for blood.