Editorials

EDITORIAL: Taxpayers must benefit from seized assets

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Former Youth and Gender Principal Secretary Lilian Omollo. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Taxpayers have little to celebrate on the seizure of former Youth and Gender Principal Secretary Lilian Omollo’s assets that were linked to corruption and money laundering.
  • It is not enough to seize assets from suspects if the forfeited property is not used on expenditure that directly benefit taxpayers.

Taxpayers have little to celebrate on the seizure of former Youth and Gender Principal Secretary Lilian Omollo’s assets that were linked to corruption and money laundering. It is not enough to seize assets from suspects if the forfeited property is not used on expenditure that directly benefit taxpayers.

Justice Mumbi Ngugi ruled on Wednesday that the former PS had failed to explain the source of the funds, hence it could only be deduced that they were proceeds of corruption. The Sh34 million held in her bank accounts will now be transferred to the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA), which has recently recovered billions of shillings, largely in cash and land, from proceeds of corruption and money laundering.

There is, however, no legal regime guiding the use of assets seized by State agencies, a lacuna that has seen the seized assets waste away.

Taxpayers have not benefitted from such seized assets, with land and homes remaining unused while hundreds of millions of of shillings lie untouched in banks.

Moveable assets like cars have been lying at police stations, with their values depreciating, making it difficult to auction the properties at their true value. It is, therefore incumbent upon Parliament to pass the draft guidelines that the Treasury has published to determine how such assets will be allocated for public good.

Putting the proceeds of the seized assets in government infrastructure bonds is a welcome move and demonstrates willingness to punish the corrupt and using the money recovered for public good.

ARA has transferred some of the recovered monies to the criminal recovery fund, which is under the watch of the National Treasury. However, as it is now, nothing stops the Treasury from using the recovered funds to pay State officers’ salaries, fund civil servants travel and entertainment as well as buy cars for top officials.

It is, therefore, necessary that the recovered properties are invested in projects like roads, building hospitals and water projects that will benefit a large mass of people.

This will send a powerful signal to the corrupt and the public that what is stolen from State coffers must eventually return to the taxpayer.