OCEAN OF PLUNDER

Old tactics in war on graft won’t work

President Kenyatta has to follow through with his lifestyle audit order and propose to Parliament to anchor it in law

In Summary

• Corruption in government has mutated and metastasised to counties in the recent years of the Jubilee administration.

• The sophistication of crooked civil servants has made investigation, prosecution and imprisonment a record testing exercise with little success.

Corruption in government
Corruption in government

Corruption is a key concern and a continuing source of annoyance to many Kenyans.

However,  it is sad that much of public anger and media and civil society attention and government punches are excessively directed towards the traditional and petty forms of sleaze – grease payments, which are just a drop in the "ocean of plunder" in the public sector.

Corruption in government has mutated and metastasised to counties in the recent years of the Jubilee administration. A passing glance at some of the hulking thievery cases such as the two-fold, multi-billion National Youth Service scandals reveal that looters in the civil service are more and more sophisticated in how they steal public funds.

Their sophistication has made investigation, prosecution and imprisonment a record testing exercise with little success.

Ours being a blame game society, some leaders and institutions in the criminal justice system have frequently passed the blame of lack of convictions in high-level graft cases to the Judiciary.

However, the Chief Justice has vehemently denied this charge, asserting that the problem is the poor quality of evidence presented to the courts that does not meet the threshold of a fair trial.

There is candour in the Chief Justice's view on the need to collect rock-hard evidence in graft cases, if suspects, especially top crooks, are to be convicted.

To achieve this, all the actors in the criminal justice system have to heighten their game plans beyond the direct transactions that define the old-style methods of corruption.

It has to be understood that big-time corruption now happens in cunningly furtive and complex ways by which deceitful politicians and bureaucrats avoid any direct involvement by enlisting their relatives, friends or business partners as conduits of their plunders.

In addition, there is the "offshoring" of proceeds of corruption to foreign locations. This somewhat edifies, for example, why an ordinary hairdresser who was not working in government was able to cart away millions of NYS money in gunny-bags in the NYS I scandal case.

By using other people as channels of looting, these "expert" thieves manage to avoid scrutiny because whatever was stolen cannot be legally inspected. It often thus ends up to be perceived as"coincidental" attainments whereas they are plainly facades.

Political will is paramount to slaying this dragon. President Uhuru Kenyatta may argue he has given the criminal justice agencies more funds to boost their operations. However, in the grand scheme of things, financial support alone is insufficient to stamp out corruption in government.

President Kenyatta has to follow through with his lifestyle audit order and propose to Parliament to anchor it in law with the thoroughness and extensiveness that it deserves. With this, public officials and those intimately around them such as spouses, children, friends and commercial partners will be equally subjected to ethical scrutiny if and when necessary.

Intelligence gathering is also a crucial pillar to make lifestyle audits yield effectual results. Consequently, the President should reinforce the role of the National Intelligence Service in the fight against graft.

On the other hand, the National Assembly and the Senate ought to create vigorous parliamentary ethics committees to keenly check on its members and breathe life to Chapter Six of the Constitution on ethics and integrity.

The current "oversight" ones have not inspired much ethics on legislators, who are ever more accused of corruption and other questionable behaviours that severely offend the constitutional values for public servants.

Finally, the victory of the graft war demands spirited contributions from the citizenry by rejecting and censuring corruption and its abhorrent practices. It is a fact that those who are looting from us are part of our society and their continued elevation and celebration truly says a lot about who and how we are as a people.

These officials partly steal because of peer and societal "pressures" to appear as "active" men and women. Political campaigns also tell a similar story because money prevails over ideals and ideas for change, thus making us look more of an oligarchy and kakistocracy than a true democracy.

 Mohamed is a sociopolitical commentator from Garissa county