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February 18, 2019

Graft swallowing up Big Four

Corruption in government.
Corruption in government.

The National Youth Service returns to the scandal lane, with a suspected plunder of Sh10.5 billion. In 2015, politically-correct suspects got away with a Sh791 million heist at the paramilitary institution.

Political condemnation of corruption cannot keep away supplicants from the shrine of plunder. Suspects should be named, shamed, charged, prosecuted, convicted or acquitted. Any other way is complicity in plunder of public funds.

Presidential insider David Murathe cautioned months to the 2017 General Election that President Uhuru Kenyatta, serving his last term, would be "lethal, brutal, and more ruthless. Just wait and see." The warning gave hope the economy would not be captive to hustler politics.

Cynics are not sure anymore: Was the brutality only directed at quelling post-election demonstrations? Were the lethal blows only aimed at citizens expressing their right to protest? Was the ruthlessness only confined to the political realm?

Which is a worse crime: Plunder of public funds or protesting a rigged vote? The brutality and ruthlessness should be directed, without fear or favour, at protecting national interest.

The flip-side of the President is yet to be felt in a way that restores discipline and integrity in public office. Plunder still reigns in public offices in Nairobi and the counties.

The public tiger is still proclaiming its tigritude instead of pouncing on suspects. State offices are still minting billionaires at a rate that baffles hard-working citizens. Hustler economy is still thriving.

The national and county treasuries are still captives of plunderers and profiteer-tenderpreneurs. Corruption, which was once concentrated at the centre in Nairobi, is devolved. County piglanders are looting treasuries with anarchic appetite. There is no control. There is no restraint. There is no shame.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission reported a case in Homa Bay county, last year, of a clerk who was found with Sh60 million stashed in a septic tank. Nothing has happened since the dramatic disclosure.

Talking alone, and much was heard during the Fifth Annual Devolution Conference in Kakamega last month, cannot restrain supplicants. General reprimands of the corrupt, no matter how high they come, do not go far enough.

Uhuru told the conference, via a video link from Nairobi: "We will not entertain any delays in providing resources, nor will I tolerate waste and corruption. People will be sacked. There are other Kenyans ready to take up those jobs."

Waste is when Homa Bay county spends Sh98,000,000 to buy hatcheries for youth groups that do not have poultry farms. Waste is when Homa Bay officially reports it has been paying 300 ghost workers from 2014, without penalty for the culpable.

The People's President Raila Odinga asked for a lifestyle audit of state officers to deter corruption. But, that has been said many times before. It is in law, complete with regular declarations of wealth.

Voracious public officers, from clerks, procurement officers, auditors and others are singing their way into ill-gotten wealth. Rapacity has gone wild. They are building hotels, buying multimillion-shilling estates, as they sing 'Barracuda Tibiim! Devolution Tibiim!'

British High Commissioner Nic Hailey said: "It is really important that corruption be dealt with because if money gets diverted for personal gain or patronage, I call that theft. If they fix that, devolution will work effectively."

US Ambassador Robert Godec said: "I see, as a result of devolution, clinics being built, roads being constructed, services being delivered. But there are challenges. There are inefficiencies. There are issues around corruption in some counties."

Homa Bay is among counties where rapacious millionaires collude with EACC investigators to subvert justice. The EACC treats suspects as guilty, until it is proved they have money to compromise investigators.

Makueni county, under Governor Kivutha Kibwani, displayed processed mango juice, honey, and milk at the Devolution Conference. There are job opportunities, and value addition. Devolution is working.

Not so in Homa Bay. The county displayed sacks of omena, saying the small fish can be preserved for two years. There was no explanation how this benefits fishermen, or boosts food security. No value added. No jobs created.

The national tiger should pounce on suspects of corruption whoever and wherever they are. The president's Big Four legacy – universal healthcare, food security, manufacturing, and affordable housing - cannot succeed without slaying the dragon of corruption.

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