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September 24, 2018

Corruption Crisis and the Soft Insurgency

UPRISING? Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru and PS Peter Mangiti at Parliament Buildings, where they appeared before the Parliamentary Accounts Committee in November. Photo/Hezron Njoroge
UPRISING? Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru and PS Peter Mangiti at Parliament Buildings, where they appeared before the Parliamentary Accounts Committee in November. Photo/Hezron Njoroge

The Interior Cabinet Secretary, General (rtd) Joseph ole Nkaissery, is considered one of the wiser and more self-assured of the Jubilee administration’s ministers.

This reputation took a hit last Tuesday when he issued a statement claiming that there was ‘a well-orchestrated campaign’ to discredit the government with ‘corruption allegations’ that was so effective it had been ‘internationalised’ and threatened to cause economic sabotage, mass action, disaffection with the government and was a ‘threat to national security’.

The statement went on to threaten those who made the claims of corruption on the part of the regime! The challenge here is that those who conduct polls consistently score Kenya as among the most corrupt countries in the world and the hail of corruption scandals that have emerged from the Jubilee regime exceeds any of its predecessors since we started measuring graft.

A journalist with the Nation Media Group, John Ngirachu, was arrested and recorded a statement regarding an article he’d written on allegations of corruption in the Interior ministry emanating from queries raised by the audits of the Office of the Auditor General presented to the Public Accounts Committee.

This single action did exactly the very thing the Cabinet Secretary was trying to stem. It led to an explosion of national and international outrage and affirmed the regime as intolerant, blunderingly incompetent and determined to cover up corruption. The next day it was reported that police were seeking a reporter from the Standard, Alphonce Shiundu.

The whole palaver started a couple of weeks ago when journalists on the parliamentary beat from a range of media groups including the Star (James Mbaka) reported the simple fact that the Interior ministry had spent Sh3.8 billion in a single day in 2014.

Some regime supporters explained to me that the money had to be spent because it was the end of the financial year. However, such is the regime’s reputation vis-à-vis corruption that many observers were willing to believe immediately that a major scandal had been uncovered.

Indeed, corruption has been all the rage for the past year in Kenya. However, CS Nkaissery seemed to grossly overstate the capacity of malevolent unpatriotic ‘forces’ to orchestrate a series of corruption scandals on a scale and with the speed, consistency, and high level of articulation that the regime has managed.

There does not exist such a collection of people – anywhere on the planet. A corruption spree like the one the Jubilee administration has set out on is beyond the organisational capacity of even the most brilliant conductors of the most specialised corruption fundis – and we have among the best on this continent.

The latest scandal prior to Nkaissery’s precipitous move involved scurrilous allegations regarding the spending at the controversy ridden Devolution ministry and its Cabinet Secretary, Anne Waiguru.

The perfect storm has been created by a compelling narrative: two years ago Jubilee borrowed $2.75 billion (Sh281 billion) from the international market and is having difficulty accounting for around $2 billion (Sh204 billion) of it.

This has led to allegations of corruption on an unprecedented scale that have been lent credence by the fact that by the government’s own admission it faces a cash crunch: the money is gone as if into a giant black hole whose gravity where public funds are concerned is so strong that not a shilling from the public purse can escape this collapsing star.

It does not help that captains of industry who have never been known to come out strongly against corruption in public are doing so in the firmest terms we have ever heard.

In truth it seems a more systematic phenomenon is being played out in government and against Jubilee’s Cabinet Secretaries and well-paid advisors. Infuriated by high-handedness, blatant tribal discrimination, corruption with impunity and a multitude of personal slights that communicate a powerful sense of madharau – a core bloc of Kenya’s civil service is in a soft insurgency against the regime. The apparent throwing of civil servants under the bus when things go wrong has worsened this.

The sad performance of a seemingly deflated Devolution Principal Secretary Peter Mangiti on TV last Tuesday night seemed to confirm this penchant. Only this explains the granular details of the ‘sex toys’ purchased by the Devolution ministry and how this information found its way so efficiently to the PAC.

Indeed this is indicative of the fact more and worse is on the way. Arresting journalists will not help the government’s case. Indeed, it will have the opposite effect – deepening suspicion, cynicism and amplifying the allegations being made with such consistency.

 

John Githongo is active in the anti-corruption field regionally and internationally. [email protected]

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