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February 20, 2019

Graft war, big 4 are intertwined

Former Devolution PS Peter Mangiti looks on as a police officer uncuffs one of the NYS suspects when they were arraigned in court over the theft of NYS funds yesterday. Photo/Monicah Mwangi
Former Devolution PS Peter Mangiti looks on as a police officer uncuffs one of the NYS suspects when they were arraigned in court over the theft of NYS funds yesterday. Photo/Monicah Mwangi

An interesting thing has happened over the last weeks. Since the arrest of senior officers suspected of being involved in corruption at the NYS and Kenya Power, Kenyans are starting to accept that President Uhuru Kenyatta actually means business when he says that he will slay the dragon of corruption.

Then there is the desperation and panic amongst largely senior government and political operatives. An indication they know that this time round the fight against corruption will not be sacrificed at the altar of political expediency. Even sceptical political observers such as Macharia Gaitho are cautiously optimistic that Uhuru will stay the course this time. They are right.

Most of us have categorised the fight against corruption as an independent issue outside the Big Four legacy agenda. Political pundits have even proposed that maybe Uhuru should forget about the Big Four and just focus on fighting corruption; because if he wins this war his legacy will be secured. Others are suggesting that the Big Four should become the Big Five — with the anti-corruption drive as the fifth agenda.

This effort to isolate Uhuru’s anti-corruption campaign from the rest of his work is driven by good intentions. Most of us think that if Uhuru combines the fight against corruption with anything else he will lose focus on the fight. This reasoning is based on a lack of understanding on why Uhuru is fighting corruption.

The connection between the graft war and the Big Four is actually obvious. The details of the amount of work required to achieve the Big Four — food security, affordable housing, industrialisation and universal healthcare — have been shared over and over again. But not many of us have made the very direct connection between why Uhuru must win the anti-corruption battle if he is to achieve the Big Four agenda. Let us look at three cases: the NYS, Kenya Power and National Cereals and Produce Board.

Government has invested heavily in the purchase of infrastructural construction equipment in the NYS. Its cohorts are also very well-trained in the basic skills required to support large projects. Due to the age and circumstances most of these youth come from, they are easily motivated to do good work.

So when someone steals funds allocated to this institution the effect is not to disempower the youth as has been argued. The thieves adversely affect the ability of the government to use its investment in young people and equipment to positively impact development in food security, industrialisation, housing and even the construction of healthcare facilities at a reasonable cost. This affects each item of the Big Four, directly.

On Kenya Power: Industrialisation is about factories, which are powered by energy. Electricity is our main source of energy. When someone steals funds allocated to Kenya Power or inflates bills, they are shutting down industries because few companies can keep running with their power bills making up over 30 per cent of their overheads. This hurts the industrialisation agenda directly. It also means loss of jobs, which affects every other aspect of the Big Four agenda indirectly.

The issue of some people stealing maize from the NCPB is a no-brainer. Maize is the most common food item in Kenya; directly and indirectly. When some unscrupulous people con farmers out of just pay for their produce they discourage them from a critical food security investment. This adversely affects efforts to ensure food security in Kenya — very directly!

Fighting corruption is therefore the ground on which the Big Four rests.

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