Editorials

Adopt smart methods in tracking dubious wealth

EACC

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission offices in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

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Summary

  • Recent disclosures on civil servants holding billions of shillings either in suspicious property or bank accounts point to a larger theft that remains hidden from the eyes of law enforcement.
  • Much has been made of the wealth declaration by public servants, but the current plan clearly has some shortcomings given the number of high-profile cases of dubious wealth being reported.

Recent disclosures on civil servants holding billions of shillings either in suspicious property or bank accounts point to a larger theft that remains hidden from the eyes of law enforcement.

Much has been made of the wealth declaration by public servants, but the current plan clearly has some shortcomings given the number of high-profile cases of dubious wealth being reported.

In just a matter of weeks, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) has in court papers described in detail how roads officials allegedly amassed wealth that is far beyond their payslips or known businesses.

In one case, the EACC is seeking seizure of property and cash worth up to Sh952 million.

In another case, the anti-graft agency is targeting an official who allegedly acquired a number of properties in cash in an effort to circumvent the demonetisation process that was meant to cut off the illicit cash.

Granted, it is hard for the authorities to know the exact magnitude of officials’ wealth solely based on the declarations, given that few will willingly list property or cash that will easily identify them as beneficiaries of corruption.

This is why it is important for the anti-corruption agency to improve its methods of tracking stolen wealth, and rely more on intelligence to catch those hiding wealth.

Failure to do so means that not only is it going to catch just a few of the culprits but there is also the risk of allowing those implicated enough time to successfully hide their ill-gotten wealth, or to spend it before they are caught.

Banks also have a larger role to play in helping make this anti-corruption drive successful, on top of the reporting they already make on suspicious or large transactions.

The banks ought to identify outliers such as people operating an inordinately large number of accounts, without a compelling reason.

It is only through such collaboration between the banks and investigating authorities that the war on corruption can be won —by restricting the space for such individuals to keep and invest the proceeds of crime safely.