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January 19, 2019

Governors are no longer at ease


Members of Parliament are beneficiaries of ‘breaking corruption’. Governors on the radar of accountability know MPs, who have a penchant for handouts, are a necessary burden to them.

Add MCAs, woman representatives and senators to the pool of rent-seekers, then governors are easily candidates for pity in a political culture that thrives on handouts. First-term governors have to keep MPs in their pockets, literally, happy and pampered. They will need these leaders when seeking reelection. Their goodwill is political capital.

The way to keep MPs, senators and MCAs grinning, with spurious praises for their governors, is to place them on regular retainer. Or giving them tenders for ghost projects. Recall how MPs were grinning around that sugar baron - like moths taking to bright light? That is how they crowd around governors. Second-term governors also entertain MPs to help them sustain false hope among the electorate. Governors need lackeys to praise them at public functions, or to repeat spurious promises of development.

The icing on the cake comes with petty handouts to the people as well. Occasional Sh20,000 for youths in shopping centres; Sh15,000 for women, no matter how many they are; and Sh10,000 for elders, feed the appetite for gubernatorial corruption.

There is a cost of sustaining hope in corruption-wrecked counties. This cost is passed over to the public through shoddy and non-existent services. Governors plunder to whet appetites for handouts.

When you add this cost to the loot that funds conspicuous consumption, then you understand why devolution is wobbling in some counties. The money that keeps MPs grinning around governors like the cat that got the cream is public money. The money that funds the promiscuous lives of some governors, and county executives, is public money. Now, they have reason to be afraid.

The audacious team of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations director George Kinoti and Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji has sent panic among the corrupt. The arrest of Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong is a signal for other suspects. The pending arrests of other governors, who are yet to be named and shamed, have sent the ‘guilty’ seeking out their political patrons for protection.

But with President Uhuru Kenyatta and the People’s President Raila Odinga saying everyone should carry their own cross, the suspects are restless. Two have taken sick-offs. Others have changed their routines, fearing arrest, even by night.

Even MPs who rode on the backs of governors suspected of corruption are changing tune. A vocal MP from Homa Bay county has been saying he won’t support any leader found ‘guilty of corruption’. He is praying this Kinoti-Haji anti-corruption heat is a passing phase. Remember the cockroach that told its children that whatever is hot will soon grow cold.

But the idea of MPs saying they won’t support a governor found guilty of corruption is a wish that old habits survive. They have always known crooks have a way of subverting justice. They hope the master would pull a trick. Suspects hired a judge when they could not rent a lawyer. Now, suspects have money to pocket lawyers and judges. Before the current anti-corruption wave, tenderpreneurs were known to reserve a percentage of the loot to buy justice.

But times are changing. The notion of innocent until proved guilty needs to be revised. Reasonable suspicion should be good enough to invite deterrent action. The narrow application of the law explains why corruption has blossomed. It is also the reason it takes courts ages to prove guilt.

In well-ordered societies, reasonable suspicions, rather than proof of guilt, should invite resignation from public office. Once aspersions have been cast on one’s character, they don’t waste public time and money in court, chasing illusive innocence.

Suspicions may not always be malicious rumours. Where suspicions linger there is cause to believe lurks guilt. An individual who is perceived by many to be corrupt may be the wrong person in a public office.

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