The role of civil servants in corruption

In Summary

•Most of the time we operate as if it is only the public servants who are involved in corruption.

•They are the ones who take the greatest blame most of the time. This happens because they are the ones who control the tendering process for goods and services, and this often runs to billions of shillings. 

A file photo of EACC headquarters in Nairobi.
A file photo of EACC headquarters in Nairobi.
Image: FILE

Yesterday was the 4th African Anti-Corruption Day. I have spent a few hours reading about it in the newspapers and what a wonderful thing if African Union could realize even a tenth of what it hoped to achieve when it set the Day for special observation. I have learned a great deal today about what the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), under my friend the retired Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, is trying to do. We also have the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution under Noordin Haji; the Judiciary Under Chief Justice David Maraga; Directorate of Criminal Investigations; Attorney General’s Office are all involved in this fight.

We even have the Kenya Leadership Integrity Forum which brings the government institutions, together with private sector and non government organisations to address this problem. All that we can do is to encourage these institutions to play their roles effectively and with courage in order that we may get our country out of this serious problem. The individual Kenyan must also change his or her attitude towards the ill and make a mental decision not to participate in corruption however little money may be involved. Corruption is one of the major factors that will keep our country poor for years if we do not bring it down.

Most of the time we operate as if it is only the public servants who are involved in corruption. They are the ones who take the greatest blame most of the time. This happens because they are the ones who control the tendering process for goods and services, and this often runs to billions of shillings. Behind these public servants stealings are our highly qualified professionals who unfortunately help in cooking up theses figures. Our roads cost more than those of many other countries to construct per kilometer. We have read about the extraordinary high costs of our dams; buildings; bridges; irrigation’s projects among many others. We have heard of supplies of expensive “ air “. It is our highly qualified engineers, educated with tax payers money who are participating in this by cooperating with the government officers. Our highly qualified medical personnel are no different. How many times are our facilities artificially out of critical drugs and then we are referred to private clinics to buy them. In many cases these medical personnel have a financial interest in those facilities that we are referred to.

We read the other day of what goes on at KEMSA, and if it is true, and so far we have not been told that it is not the case, then our country is in serious problem. We are also hearing many rumours about COVID-19 funds being misused under the control of the same medical professionals. We shall wait to learn about this from the inevitable Commission of Enquiries that will be set up after the pandemic to learn more.Need I talk about some lawyers and their sacred clients’ accounts that are almost impossible to penetrate because of old fashioned laws of secrecy ! Switzerland and other tax havens have had to change their laws and open up on their banks’ secret accounts where we hide our ill gotten money. Is it not time we also reviewed the role of the so called clients accounts where some of us hide money ?

Above are only three examples of how some of our highly qualified professionals are openly participating in corruption at the expense of the poor taxpayer. If you meet these people in a bars, attacking corruption that is within the public servants and the political elite, you would never know that they are the ones that we work with to steal public resources. How could I steal the billions without a professional accountant, banker, procurement professionals ? I must emphasize that not all professionals that fall in this category as we have thousands of very decent ones, just as we have many public servants and political elite who too live straight.So, as we celebrate this Day, please let us, we the public servants, the political class and the professionals, change our attitudes towards corruption. If we do not, then why should the small clerk, traffic officer, forester or anyone else not engage in it after watching us steal ? Until some big people are jailed and forced to return the stolen funds to the government, then the Anti-Corruption Day in Africa will remain a mirage. We want AU to win on this fight for the sake of our potentially very rich Continent but which remains poor because of corruption.

The writer is a former Cabinet Minister and vied for the Presidency in the 2017 General Election.