The Treasury has finally published regulations for the Hustler Fund, setting the stage for the rollout of what is expected to be one of the new administration’s flagship programmes.
If spent well, the Sh50 billion earmarked for the fund annually could significantly boost efforts to ensure affordable credit to small businesses, a key campaign promise by President William Ruto.
It is noteworthy that the regulations seek to, among other things, curb abuse and embezzlement -- which undermined similar affirmative action funds in the past -- by imposing a fine of Sh10 million or a five-year jail term on offenders.
There is also an attempt to fix the challenges of loan recovery through involvement of debt collectors.
But the regulations will do little to inspire public confidence that the right people will benefit from the Hustler Fund given an emerging a pattern of impunity by cartels scheming to hijack affirmative action funds or steal taxpayer money.
The fact that these cartels often involve public officials and politically well-connected individuals with deep knowledge of how to game the system makes it difficult to stop them.
For instance, some privileged people were reported to have won tenders from the Access to Government Opportunities (AGPO) programme introduced by the previous administration to support businesses owned by youth, women and persons with disabilities.
The chronic failure of affirmative action funds to achieve their goals therefore calls for more drastic measures for the Hustler Fund than threats of fines, imprisonment and forcible debt collection.
As the government starts to roll out of the fund from November 30, it needs to keep out the cartels and ensure the right people benefit.