Kenya begun 2016 on a high corruption note, and it appears the momentum has not been lost even as the year draws to a close. Early in the year a frustrated President Uhuru told Kenyans in Israel that back home, Kenyans were experts at stealing. Corruption is so rife in Kenya the Auditor General has been having a field day revealing shocking financial misappropriation, almost on the daily. It appears Nick Schrifrin, the American Journalist couldn’t have said it better, “In Kenya, even the world’s fastest men can’t outrun corruption.”
Gone are the days when working in government meant patriotism. It was hard work with little pay; a sacrifice if you may. Because one believed they were building their country. Those who chose the private companies were considered corruptible and hungry for money, how things have changed? Today, government is the new private. Thanks to tenderprenureship and other financial gymnastics, a junior government employee earning less than Sh.10000 a month can easily own a mansion in the affluent Kitusuri in under 12 months. It’s amazing how corruption makes your dreams come alive! If you doubt this, ask those who made Sh.5 billion disappear at the ministry of Health.
What is tragic however is that key institutions that are supposed to fight corruption are appearing helpless, and in some cases corrupt themselves. From the Presidency, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), to Parliament it appears corruption is only intimidating these institutions in the past four or so years.
Meanwhile that, those Parliamentary committees such as the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and Public Investment Committees (PIC) continue to endlessly sermon and grill culprits yet corruption continues to thrive, demands a closer look. Are the Members of Parliament in these committees serving the interest of Kenyans besides the televised tough talks?
In this year’s 2nd Annual General Meeting and Conference for the African Organisation of the Public Accounts Committee (Afropac) attended by PACs from 47 countries, President Uhuru and Opposition leader Raila both accused these watchdog committees of failing to serve Kenyans. The President complained the committees were being used to settle political scores while Raila on the other hand accused the watchdog committees of doing little to expose the corrupt cartels in the government.
If members of these committees are truly committed, how could some Kenyans have the audacity to make Sh.5 billion disappear when the National Youth Service (NYS) scandal had not even been rested? Has Parliament’s role been reduced to mere questioning that is neither here nor there? Are the MPs in the watchdog committees asking the right questions that could help put these thieves behind bars or are they compromised? That they could be compromised is not a far-fetched notion considering leader of Majority Party Aden Duale complained to the private sector in Mombasa this week about giving MPs bribe to lobby for their interests and support Bills in their interests.
The role Parliamentary committees’ play in the fight against corruption should be of great interest to us especially as we head to elections because this is the time to take stock of the people we voted. It’s their sole duty to ensure Kenyans get value for money in projects undertaken by the government on behalf of its citizens. That these committees have examined numerous Auditor General reports as is expected by their mandate and nothing substantial has come of it to this date is reason to call them out on this.
Additionally, we need to have honest discussions about the institutions that have become rocking chairs to say the least. The office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), the Judiciary, Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Police and the EACC must find a way to eliminate the politics and work together for Kenyan’s sake. Why can’t these institutions speak with one accord when it comes to corruption? Instead they’re always accusing each other of being an impediment to the other’s work.
This week EACC and the police were giving contradictory reports regarding investigations involving Tharaka-Nithi deputy governor. And the EACC on numerous occasions has accused office of DPP of failing to prosecute while DPP either blames the courts over slow wheels of justice or the police’s inconclusive report. We can’t slay corruption with this circus.
As the veteran anti-corruption activist John Githongo puts it, the summit and conference approach to tackle corruption approach doesn’t cut it anymore. There’s too much tough talk on corruption and little action. It is indeed an issue of lack of political will.
Parliament and key institutions on the frontline war against corruption should mull over the words of our literature icon Ngugi wa Thiong’o who captured the need to act so powerfully when he said, “A task is a burden only when it has not been tackled.” Suffice to say therefore that corruption is a burden because there is no political will to tackle it.