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November 17, 2018

DEMAS KIPRONO: State agencies to blame for graft

Corruption
Corruption

Over the past two to three months, powerful individuals, including current and former governors, parastatal bosses and senior government officials, have been arrested and charged with corruption and abuse of office. It is noteworthy that this wave came after President Uhuru Kenyatta publicly took a stand against graft.

The new Director of Criminal Investigations, George Kinoti, and Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji seem to be doing their part with regards to investigations, arrests and prosecutions. Be that as it may, it is still too early to tell whether these prosecutions will be successful since the average criminal case in Kenya takes north of three years.

Many have been sceptical about the timing of this ‘new fight against corruption’. They wonder why the President did not wage this war in his first term. They wonder whether this is a knee-jerk reaction to the realisation that there might be no legacy to speak of if things continue unchecked.

I choose to look at it from another angle. Hypothetically, If Kenya is the RMS Titanic, the captain is the President, and the ‘Iceberg’ is corruption and abuse of power. The captain has been alerted that the vessel is about to hit an iceberg and would likely sink. Would you choose to support the captain in his endeavours to avoid impact and save the vessel and all of us in it, or would you start speculating as to the captain’s motives?

For now, I will support the anti-corruption crusade as long as it will stop the wanton looting of our resources and heritage. However, the law, due process and human rights must be followed and observed throughout the processes.

Any money stolen or misappropriated by a public officer deprives Kenyans, especially the most vulnerable, of human dignity, justice, healthcare, education, employment and quality of life. Any programmes towards the Big Four, which promise to be a game changer in terms of standards of living, will be futile if the culture of plunder and looting of public funds is not tamed.

A home-grown, grassroots and national push for respect of every persons dignity, good governance, human rights and accountability had begun during Kibaki’s first term. It was soon thwarted by partisanship within the governing coalition. Eventually, human rights, saving the Mau Forest complex, protecting riparian land and road reserves were abandoned.

Currently, the National Environmental Management Authority, with other state agencies such as the National Construction Authority, is demolishing buildings erected on riparian land in Nairobi. Ironically, the owners of most of the buildings being demolished had somehow managed to obtain permits from the very same agencies.

In line with Chapter Six of the Constitution, heads need to roll within these agencies. The demolitions are taking too many prisoners, especially innocent third parties. The sad truth is, if Nema and others had followed the law and done their work diligently, none of these buildings would have been erected in the first place. To go for the builders who wrongfully erected structures on riparian land, while letting state agencies that facilitated the wrongdoing off the hook is tantamount to ‘treating the symptom and not the cause’ or ‘putting lipstick on a pig’.

After eight years of a new and progressive Constitution that established independent agencies and bound all public officers to leadership and integrity provisions, we should be very concerned that the anti-corruption war and environmental conservation only took place after a presidential directive.

This could be an indication that our institutions have totally failed and only operate when instructed. To them, media reports, public complaints and natural disasters are mere noises that require no action, leading to zero accountability. Under our constitutional system, every government function is derived from the people and is for the benefit of the people. 

Surely, Nema, the EACC and others cannot justify ‘sitting on their hands’, waiting for presidential direction with regards to their own mandates, and how and when they are to act on pressing issues. Why are they staffed with full time experts in their respective fields?

 

Senior programmes officer, Article 19 Eastern Africa

[email protected]  @kipdemas  

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