It is not true to say that civil society and the general public have ignored and hardly talk about corruption at the county level. It is true, however, that corruption in the national government has attracted the most attention in recent years.
Whereas the national government is saddled with mega corruption scandals, the governors tend to dismiss allegations of corruption leveled against them with claims that they are part of the vast conspiracy by the centre to sabotage devolution.
The institutions mandated to fight corruption are national in character. Whether you are talking about the EACC, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, the Office of the Auditor General and the Controller of Budget, all are national in character.
It is difficult to fault the counties and the corruption under them when the institutions charged with the task are reeling in confusion. These institutions must get their act together and fight corruption at the level of the State as required of them by the law.
They have the constitutional obligation to fight corruption. The case of Kilifi is poignant. All indications are the governor is ready to cooperate to get to the bottom of this infamy. He has provided the documents related to the scandal, suspended those involved and called in investigators.
The corruption allegations in Kilifi sound like the same story that we have heard about the National Youth Service. Investigations about people who are well versed with the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) taking advantage of the system to loot from the public must be done and those concerned brought to book.
Whereas the county governments have a moral obligation to fight graft, it is upon the national government to steer the war on corruption to its logical conclusion, because it controls the institutions that are legally mandated to fight corruption.
Besides the institutions’ putting their act together, citizens must exercise their power to ensure that corruption is eliminated. They should stand up to be counted, picket, present petitions and memoranda to those in authority as one of the ways to express their displeasure with high level corruption.
Citizen action is important to push the anti-graft agencies to take action against the culprits. It was good to see demonstrations in Kilifi demanding accountability from the governor over the scandal.
Citizen action is necessary and forms part of the effort of fighting entrenched corruption, and it should be encouraged.
- Odhiambo is the President of National the Civil Society Congress (NCSC)