We Can’t fight Corruption With Cosmetic Rage; a Trip Down Memory Lane Confirms Our Folly

Posted by on 30th May 2018

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John Githongo once remarked that the Moi administration handed President Kibaki a skunk and he took it home as a pet. He was referring to the Anglo-leasing scandal. Interestingly, that skunk found its way in Uhuru’s administration and thrived much to everybody’s surprise.

The President in May 2014 ordered that Anglo-leasing be paid with immediate effect “…to minimise further loss as the outstanding awards continue to accrue interest.” The President also ordered fresh investigations which looked more like a decision to deflect the growing dissatisfied voices.

Perhaps what’s curious about the ‘pet’ that Kibaki handed Uhuru is that President Uhuru had himself investigated this scandal while chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and had submitted a report to the House on the matter. The sudden about turn and claims of interest accruing were a jaw-dropping moment and remains mysterious to date.

That same year (2014), the government paid for the Anglo-leasing, it floated the infamous Sh.215 billion Eurobond that Office of the Auditor General (OAG) said could not be accounted for-two years after the government insisted it had allocated the monies to the ministries. In his report the OAG noted that the ministry of Water and Irrigation which was alleged to have received Sh11.2 billion could not give any evidence of projects or receipts of any expenditure to that effect.

This year the government floated yet again Sh.202billion Eurobond despite the lingering questions over how the first Eurobond was used. In fact on the same day the government secured the Eurobond, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned the public debt may become unsustainable yet the government insisted we were within the acceptable limits. Again, the public had something to say online and reverted back to the mundane.

It could be that as a country we suffer selective amnesia or our problems are just too many or perhaps these scandals are popping up faster than we can digest and deal. In a span of less than a year since the Eurobond saga, the NYS scandal hit us so hard we were so angry for days on end. Though initial official reports indicated at least Sh 1.8 billion had been lost, the National Assembly Public Accounts Committee found the figures could be way higher than that.

Closely following that NYS heist, the ‘Mafya House’ scandal broke out but the officials fought the media reports so hard until the OAG confirmed that indeed there was a scandal at the Ministry of Health. The Deputy President was among those who spoke sternly saying it was the government who did the internal audit (which was leaked to the media) and it was to prevent corruption. He said they will take a firm decisive step and have those involved step down and face the law.

Interestingly, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s sister and cousin were among those reported to have irregularly pocketed Sh. 41million through a company they registered in 2013-five months after President Uhuru took office. While the registration of the company and the president’s taking office may be completely unrelated, critics saw the timing as suspicious and a possible conflict of interest on the part of the president. As usual, Kenyans were enraged, throwing tantrums on social media and eventually moved on.

Today we have another NYS heist, which appears to be the continuation of the first one. Bearing in mind the key suspects walked free and the recommendations of the PAC report remained just that-a recommendation.

Indeed, the NYS part two scandal shows the joke that is our institutions from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI), Parliament among others. Parliament particularly because it is the arm of government that Wanjiku falls back to as a last resort.

When the NYS scandal part one exploded, dragging the head of EACC at the time, Parliament spoke out and dismissed their investigations (EACC) and PAC took over. We were treated to a lot of political drama and in the end, the report did not have anything tangible or actionable. Nobody was mentioned, despite overwhelming evidence. It is no wonder critics are now questioning whether MPs should draw any allowances on these committees that promise so much and deliver little or nothing.

Perhaps the EACC CEO’s observation of NYS scandal one should serve to remind us that temporary rage won’t do it for us. He said, “…I can assure you that nearly all people from all walks of life whether in the government or outside of government have been mentioned in the NYS probe, including MPs, Principals Secretaries, Cabinet Secretaries, and people who hold other offices. You can also confirm that my own chairman was a casualty of the same.” Little wonder then that the PAC report was almost vague.

As the NYS scandal two and the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) investigations continue, as a country we need to stop with cosmetic anger and begin demanding a return on investment on our institutions. So far the new leadership at the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) is showing results but a larger conversation on the other institutions and MPs partiality or lack thereof in Parliamentary Committees is something we need to start talking about with much seriousness.

We’ve got to stop getting angry on Twitter and Facebook and take it to the streets-making it clear it can’t be business as usual. A beginning point is attending the protest on Thursday, 31st May, 2018 starting from the Freedom corner, Uhuru Park at 8:00am. Let’s pour into the streets in numbers for the leaders to know we’re genuinely disturbed and won’t accept this anymore.