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January 20, 2019

EACC chases rats as house burns

A file photo of EACC headquarters in Nairobi.
A file photo of EACC headquarters in Nairobi.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission should learn from four international events – in Ukraine, South Korea, South Africa, and Brazil – on how other countries handle graft. The public disconcert with plunder echoes the paralysis at Integrity Centre.

The Brazil, South Korea, and South Africa cases show there should be no sacred cows in the war on corruption. The Ukraine example illustrates what happens when formal structures fail.

Case One: A former President of Brazil, who is favoured to win the October presidential election, is serving a 12-year jail term for corruption. The Brazilian Supreme Court found former President Lula Da Silva guilty of bribery. Lula received a beachfront apartment in exchange for ‘political favours’.

The upper court affirmed the conviction by a lower court. But the former President has a technical chance of appeal. If the appeal fails, the conviction nullifies Lula’s second-time ambition for president. But convict Lula still promises to run for president, even from jail.

Case Two: A South Korea court sentenced former President Park Geun-Hye to 24 years in jail. She was found guilty of abuse power, bribery, and extortion. The first South Korean woman president was also fined $16.8 million ( 1.69 billion). Her accomplices are also in jail. Good, practical example for Kenya, where complicity reigns.

Case Three: In South Africa, randy Jacob Zuma also appeared in a Durban court on 60 charges of corruption, a month after he was ejected from the presidency. He was the patron of corruption while he ruled.

Case Four: On the day the Ukrainian Parliament passed an anti-corruption law to cleanse the government of infectious plunder, mobs had a ritual of their own. They were not dancing over another anti-corruption law.

Enraged Ukrainians set up dustbins and tyres around Parliament Buildings for a cleansing rite. They grabbed a senior ruling party official as he alighted from his car, roughed him up, and threw him into a dustbin. A tyre was placed on him, as the crowd jeered. Kenya may be headed the Ukraine way, in the face of ascendant corruption in Nairobi and the counties. What is the recourse when formal structures fail? Does the EACC want Kenyans to lynch known suspects?

Chairman Eliud Wabukala has good intentions, but he is surrounded by officers who are turning graft into opportunities for extortion. The integrity issues at Homa Bay county treasury and the county assembly, among others, are good examples of procrastination stealing time on the commission. Meanwhile, public money is enriching a few individuals.

The Brazil example demonstrates judicial resolve to fight corruption. It also shows investigators can probe, prosecute, convict or acquit high-level suspects.

Kenya, where sacred cows graze pigland, needs to understand anti-corruption agencies are liabilities when they launder crimes.

The EACC is paralysed, yet again, when a man of God is in charge. The Most Reverend Wabukala was an inspired choice, after other professionals failed or were ejected. A former policeman, a judge, a lawyer, and an accountant had their days of paralysis at the EACC.

An archbishop combining earthly law and prayer for divine intervention was expected to make a mark. But the record, so far, is not flattering. The EACC is not any more visible than when it was under former sleuth Harun Mwau and lawyer PLO Lumumba.

It stands to reason whether there is anything that EACC can do to prevent corruption suspects from running for public office contrary to Chapter Six of the Constitution. The last election had several on the ballot paper despite public opprobrium.

Now that the President has made clear that every public official will be held to account for their portfolios, we expect a sea change in the level of corruption and profiles of those prosecuted. The EACC should not be chasing rats when the house is on fire. It should not ‘fight’ corruption in darkness. It must measure up to the big task.

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