Has State been attracting good people in the first Place?

A basic analysis of the health ministry for instance would reveal the scale of corruption.

In Summary

•Although this is often attributed to frail fiscal capacity and impulsive economic conditions, the attendant health risks cannot be discounted.

•These include high mortality rates at about 500 deaths in 100,000 births, with estimated 21 mothers dying and 96 stillbirths registered daily from pregnancy related complications.

In 2016, during Governance and Accountability Summit, the president expressed wretched feebleness and “accepted” that indeed Kenya was facing a deadly pestilence — corruption and fraud.
In 2016, during Governance and Accountability Summit, the president expressed wretched feebleness and “accepted” that indeed Kenya was facing a deadly pestilence — corruption and fraud.
Image: OZONE

There is a general public judgment that the President feels let down by his men in the Executive and Parliament with reference to the war on corruption. But I dare ask: has this government been attracting good people in the first place?

One of the books I love reading is Death and Dying. It details how people face any deeply unpleasant experience: It isn’t true, they first say.

Then they lash out and pass culpability to others, then they hope for a little good news; followed by despair, and finally accept what must surely be. In 2016, during Governance and Accountability Summit, the president expressed wretched feebleness and “accepted” that indeed Kenya was facing a deadly pestilence — corruption and fraud.

That was melodramatic, a histrionic departure from the past. About the malfeasance that had firstly been reported at NYS, the Head of State rushed to the defense of the alleged suspect, even telling the whistleblowers to “should stop distracting my transformative agenda”.

During the State of the Nation Address, he shattered the smugness and the elusive mood of the Joint Sitting of the House when he tabled the so-called “List of Shame” handed to him by the Anti-Corruption watchdog. With the List, commentators pontificated that the President sought to presage that the problem was bigger than his administration initially thought.

A basic analysis of the health ministry for instance would reveal the scale of corruption. But first, let us dive into statistics. With only six percent of the GDP devoted to our healthcare, with scarcely 7 per cent average annual budgetary allocation (the lowest in the region), our present health care expenditure is not worth the opportunity costs.

Although this is often attributed to frail fiscal capacity and impulsive economic conditions, the attendant health risks cannot be discounted.

These include high mortality rates at about 500 deaths in 100,000 births, with estimated 21 mothers dying and 96 stillbirths registered daily from pregnancy related complications.

Moreover, about 1 in 20 children die before turning five. Thus the country usually turns to a patchwork of global partnerships funding. Regrettably, even with that, there have been no significant and sustainable health gains due to corruption. For instance, in 2016, the ministry could not account for Sh5 billion, out of whichKsh800 million was alleged to have been billed for flagship maternity project under dubious circumstances.

The internal auditors exposed how the outlay was disfigured with irregularities and illegalities. The authorities are said to have disregarded the fiscal structure laid out in the Constitution. In 2017, the US Embassy withdrew Sh 2B funding, citing the misappropriation of Sh 3B. Recently, the Nation Media Group’s NTV revealed how a gang of cartels hauled Sh 49M donated towards the national health response to the pandemic, making the World Health Organization to call it a “genocide”.

So, the fact is that the graft has galloped the Kenya State along the grief-path for a long time, and is gradually getting engrained into the President’s legacy. Part of the reason is lack of strong national anti-corruption philosophy and plans. The vice is majorly fought through a swanky stage craft campaigns pigeon holed by a slither of “reform garnishes” that are proclaimed in public to astound donors and investors but ideally envisioned to foreclose any lucid Anti-Corruption public discourse. Some rightfully posit hat they are only meant to prepare the ground for cartels to “eat” and “fix” the balance sheets.

To contain the graft, however, we should first diagnose the maladies that have infected our State and its institutions, potentially creating avenues for criminals to prey on public coffers. This will help the State break the manacles of a rapacious public service which has morphed into a convenient avenue for illicit gain. Secondly, members of a “criminal enterprise” which purposefully protect the government and finance politics to entrench corruption in the public sector must be disclosed and prosecuted.

The President has to save future generations from falling into the traps of what Tom Burg is describes in his book, The Looting Machine: many leaders of governments survive by wangling illicit payments from bandit businesses to fund elections.

Nonetheless, as written in the book, Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security, if the government fashions itself into a criminal network, it retains the unscrupulous and drives out the honest. Mr. Kenyatta’s helplessness at corruption is warranted. However, it could also be that his administration has not been attracting good people who can be trusted with public money.

Onyango is the Global Impact Fellow at MWI [email protected]