State capture impeding the fight against procurement-related graft

Integrity Centre hosts the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) offices in Nairobi. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

It’s one year since President William Ruto took over the mantle of leadership. During his swearing-in ceremony, tackling corruption was among the key issues on his “to-do list”. 

However, according to the latest survey by Infotrak, the 2022 Corruption Perception Index released by Transparency International (TI) ranked Kenya among the most corrupt countries at 123 out of 180.

Procurement-related corruption has become a matter of great concern. Favouritism, nepotism, cronyism, prebendalism and kleptocracy that characterised the previous administrations are finding their way into public procurement despite Kenya having one of the most progressive public procurement laws in the region.

Reports by the Ethics and Anticorruption Commission (EACC) indicate that in the January-March, 2023 period, the commission managed to disrupt corrupt activities and averted loss of public funds amounting to Sh34,489,000. 

In the financial period 2021/22, public assets worth Sh5.2 billion, including parcels of land belonging to various public institutions, were recovered from private individuals.

Illegal conversion of public resources to personal use, embezzlement of funds through public procurement manipulations, irregular contract variations, engagement in procurement projects without prior planning, and irregular tender awards are privileges that can only be associated with “cronies” who are usually reserved monopoly positions, big government contracts, special tax breaks, protection against competing imports, and tariff exemptions that are unusual with other ordinary citizens.

The political elite manipulates procurement processes in favour of family, friends and relatives, public appointments, judicial, legal and policy frameworks, plays politics of ethnicity and tribal balancing with impunity and in disregard of the set laws.

Chapter six of the constitution is no longer applicable to such clique.

Such unethical conduct has resulted in the country’s underdevelopment, poor service delivery, poor road construction, high public debt and budget deficits, unfair recruitment process, widened gap between the rich and the poor and unprecedented haemorrhage of public funds.

When state officers abuse public power for private gain, they do more than simply appropriating illicit wealth. Corruption robs citizens of equal access to vital services, denying the right to quality healthcare, public safety, and education.

It degrades the business environment, subverts economic opportunity, and exacerbates inequality. It often contributes to human rights violations and abuses and can plunge the country into anarchy.

The state must put up institutional frameworks that make it harder for corrupt officials to hide the proceeds of ill-gotten wealth in opaque corporate structures, reduce the ability of individuals involved in corrupt acts to launder funds through anonymous purchases of real estate and bolster asset recovery and seizure activities.

Therefore, it is true that for corruption to end, ”mambo ni matatu”, period.

The writer is a procurement and contract management consultant.

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