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Letters

LETTERS: Bungled lifestyle audit will mar graft war

Lifestyle audit is a snapshot into certain
Lifestyle audit is a snapshot into certain aspects of an employee’s life. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

There is a sense in which South African politician Julius Malema’s cry “mama show us a sign” resonates to our Kenya’s situation. As incidences of graft in administration of public affairs becomes more pronounced and frequent contrary to public expectation, Kenyans are crying out for a sign to slay the graft dragon.

The presidency’s reaction has been swift. For a start, all heads of procurement and accounting units in government departments and parastatals are required to undergo a suitability test. That’s a policy shifts in itself.

Anti-corruption crusaders believe we are on the right trajectory with exhibition of the political good will.As we look forward to an expeditious closure to that exercise, it’s doubtful whether this approach was well thought out. The path is too narrow as observed during the police vetting.

The cost of setting off on a wrong trajectory are significant. Underlying problems might persist or even get worse as there lacks legal and policy framework to guide the exercise. In a nutshell just like the adage goes the more things change the more they remain the same. Even before the dust settles, another policy position was issued.

All civil servants must undergo a lifestyle audit starting with the president himself.

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But what exactly does this mean? Lifestyle audit is a snapshot into certain aspects of an employee’s life. It’s a fraud detection or prevention mechanism. Of interest is to establish consistency in living standards of an employee against his income.

There have been no documented lifestyle audit of government officials in Africa, objectively conducted save for the “cash gate scandal” in Malawi that brought down Joyce Banda’s government.It is a requirement for all civil servants to submit wealth declaration forms every two year.

Such are the inputs required in making informed sound judgement on the matter. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission should have by now done suspect profiling or business intelligence using these forms. Their findings should be the one guiding the process. It is doubtful whether they have the capacity to do so or it’s a matter of nonexistence of a legal framework.Besides, parliament is yet to legislate and establish procedures and mechanism for effective administration of chapter six of our constitution. There is legal and policy lacuna in operationalizing a lifestyle audit as a result. For instance what does ‘unexplained wealth acquisition’ mean? The word ‘unexplained’ is subjective. In any case, no one can live beyond ones means.

It’s simply a lifestyle transformation that is sudden and suspect. And the question ought to be; by when and how did the transformation barge hit? We should be cautious not to demonise industriousness and wealth creation so long it’s genuinely earned.

A botched exercise will create a serious crisis in conduct of public affairs. Lifestyle audit and vetting as ordered remains a policy position.

The onus of it implementation falls within legislature and administrators of government policies who should put up policy strategies and guidelines for smooth operationalization of this directive.

Any other approach is cosmetic and subjective and can only yield negative energy in economic growth, service delivery, productivity and employees’ commitment to future initiatives.

Kiragu Kariuki, public policy and administration expert, Nyeri.

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