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September 21, 2018

Moral hygiene begins at the top

A file photo of DP William Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta and NASA leader Raila Odinga. /FILE
A file photo of DP William Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta and NASA leader Raila Odinga. /FILE

The pending national ‘fumigation’ would have been good news for everyone, if the vocal minority had nothing to hide. The presidential order should have been the tipping point in the fight against corruption for tax-weary citizens if the power elite respected the public interest.

Now some steakholders claim lifestyle audits, the anti-corruption wave, and the cessation of political hostilities through the March 9 handshake, are ‘political and ambition-killing’. That these initiatives are intended to stop some people from becoming richer than they are. This powerful minority wants the lifestyle audit backdated to Founding President Jomo Kenyatta. This is a diversionary strategy to derail the accountability drive, politicise it and then abort it.

The power clique resisting the coming fumigation also wants the lifestyle audit to spread to people who do not occupy any known public office. They want former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and his late father, freedom icon Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, to account for their wealth. They want the ‘makanga [matatu conductor]’ of Mombasa to be cleaned first. Another diversion from the anti-corruption agenda.

The diversions are curious attempts to subvert the good intentions of reclaiming accountability in public office. The engineers of the diversions know what they are hiding. All the more reason why the broom should not spare anyone.

There is no better way of exorcising the ghost of plunder than ridding cupboards of hideous skeletons. But this powerful elite fears a rendezvous with accountability. They are afraid of full disclosure. It is as though Chapter Six of the Constitution, which demands integrity in public office, does not exist for them. They are traversing the land with tears of ‘we are being targeted’; ‘Oh, the national fumigator does not want someone to become President’.

The public interest in moral sanitation does not matter to this clique of steakholders. The taxpaying masses have a reason to worry because some leaders are afraid, scared, and shivering at the blast of light, which the President ordered. The clean-up begins with top public servants. The light is supposed to shine on the President, Deputy President, Cabinet Secretaries, governors, principal secretaries, and others. The lifestyle audit is a common dish — to be served to everyone in public office.

Some of these people have the opportunity, the means, and the motive to enrich themselves through proceeds of corruption. Some of these people are suspected to have ‘eaten’ more than their official take-home pay.

Beneficiaries of the proceeds of runaway corruption are in the counties, where they are personalising and devouring gains of devolution. They are in the national government, subverting development. They control procurement and budgets. The bigger the budget the higher their opportunity to plunder. They have an informal network that subverts the war on corruption.

The allegations of the rot at the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission as filed in the Labour Relations Court by a former employee, if proved, may explain the high turnout [exit] of commissioners at the public watchdog. There is a possibility of a rogue secretariat that should be detoxified to return Integrity Centre to its constitutional mandate of fighting corruption.

The coming fumigation is redemptive. It is not about stopping anyone from running for President. It asks for integrity of everyone in public office. The cleanup serves the public interest. It is an opportunity for Kenya to forfeit its place of notoriety among the most corrupt countries in the world. It is an opportunity for public servants to stop bleeding the poor to feed themselves. It is an opportunity for accountability.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has a chance to prove anti-corruption cynics wrong. He knows corruption threatens his legacy. The success of his Big Four agenda — manufacturing, universal healthcare, affordable housing and food security — depends on creating value for public money. All he needs, therefore, is to enjoin the people in exposing this rapacious minority.

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