• April 18, 2024
  • Last Update April 18, 2024 6:55 PM
  • Nairobi

Uhuru’s war on corruption: the milestones

Uhuru’s war on corruption: the milestones

Uhuru’s war on corruption: the milestones

Few statements have roused anger and disapproval from the public in the recent past like the Orange Democratic Party’s pronouncement on the corruption scandal at the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA).

The government is alleged to have lost hundreds of millions of shillings to unscrupulous suppliers who inflated prices of Coved 19 material supplied to the agency in the last five months.

Unknown to ODM, its position that a proper probe, preferably by the Auditor General, be carried out to determine the truth was interpreted by a vigilant public as an attempt to defend the corrupt. The party may not be able to control the damage caused to its reputation by the statement.

ODM, whose leader is Raila Odinga, works with the government of Uhuru Kenyatta, since the March 2018  ‘Handshake”. Criticism of an ODM position on a critical matter such as corruption could easily be interpreted as criticism of government

This, however, is not an article on the ODM statement, and neither is it a commentary on the KEMSA scandal. But the criticism leveled on ODM is an indication that the country would not tolerate sloppiness in its fight against graft.

When President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2015 declared corruption a ‘national security threat’ and vowed to fight it, his critics dismissed this as one of the usual public relations gimmicks. But even these doubters now acknowledge his consistency in fighting the menace.

 Eager to leave behind an anti-graft legacy, and aware of the corrosive effects of the vice, the president appears keen to finish the work.   

Fighting corruption is one of the most difficult assignments any government could face. It is often said that corruption fights back. The Kenyan experience shows it is indeed a herculean task.

Fortunately for Kenya, an anti-corruption agency, the Ethics and Anti-corruption Agency (EACC) has  been in operation for a number of years now. The offices of the Director of Public Prosecution and that of the Director of Criminal Investigation have also been strengthened.

Additionally, there has been enactment of a good asset recovery law. The law was passed in 2009 and gives the State the power to confiscate any property that is used or intended to be used in the commission of a crime or is directly or indirectly the product of proceeds of crime.

Previously, lack of public accountability, centralized power, and the absence of strong state agencies undermined efforts to fight graft. That there has been a shift evident in the progress so far made.

It is this strength that has enabled the public prosecutor to order the arrest and prosecution of current and former public officials on charges including abuse of office and other corruption charges.

For a country that has consistently been ranked high on the Transparency International’s corruption index, there is light at the end of the tunnel, with not only the strengthening of the offices, but also the resolve of the country’s top leadership.

Soon after he made the anti-graft declaration, the president followed his words with the action of sacking several cabinet secretaries. But the exigencies of pre-2017 politics somehow slackened the resolve and the war seemed to taper away.

A second term victory in 2017 and a desire for a positive legacy saw the president re-activate the fight against corruption. He started by appointing  the no nonsense George Kinoti as head of the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) and the firm Noordin Haji the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

With this appointment, he had set the stage for arrests and prosecutions of many senior officials implicated in corruption. The duo hit the stage running, goaling scores of tainted officials.

This brought hope to a county where financial abuse, graft and fraud was the order of the day, curtailing development and undermining the country’s efforts to reduce poverty.

Although scores of government officials have been prosecuted ever since the two took office, it was the prosecution of a treasury cabinet secretary, his principal secretary among other senior officials that signaled that President Uhuru Kenyatta was winning the war on corruption.

The treasury officials, Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich and PS Thugge, were prosecuted in connection with the Arror and Kimwarer dam projects in Elgeyo Marakwet in which an Italian firm, CMC di Ravenna, had won the contract to build the dams four years back but had not started work despite being paid over Ksh 23 billion.

According to the prosecutor, the money was illegally paid out through a connivance by government officers, private individuals and institutions.

Another case that has proved the presidents is sincere in this fight is that of former Kiambu County Governor Ferdinand Waititu, who was later last year first asked to step aside before finally being impeached.

 

Waititu is being accused of irregularly awarding tenders worth 588 million  to companies associated with the governor or members of his immediate family.

The people involved in these examples were at one time thought to be close to the president, meaning the president will not hesitate to sacrifice even his friends should they be caught up in corruption,

In the past, such people were never prosecuted, and in the rare cases when they were, the matters ended up disappearing once public pressure was over.

Other cases such as the National Youth Service scam where the government lost Shs 78 billion to ghost companies are being prosecuted. 

Some of the cases where the public was skeptical because they involved very senior state officials, have to the surprise of critics, been successfully prosecuted. These include the case of the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority where a hotel belonging to deputy president William Ruto was built on a parcel of land belonging to the agency. This case has been resolved in favour of the government agency.

The case of the state power company, Kenya Power, where millions of shillings was lost in the supply of defective transformers and unaccounted labor and transportation cost, is on the verge of conclusion.

The list of those facing corruption charges is huge, including members of parliament, governors, heads of parastatals, among others.

This time round, there are strong indication that there could convictions of some of the senior people facing corruption charges. Last month, Sirisia MP John Waluke, who was elected on the president’s party and a sister to former vice president Moody Awori, Grace Wakhungu, were jailed after being found guilty of stealing money from the National Cereals Board.

The Asset Recovery Authority, one of the cogs in this fight, has also been active, possessing property acquired from the proceeds of corruption. Among the properties it possessed in the recent past include that acquired using money stolen from the NYS.

While the Executive appears serious in fighting the crime, there seems to be a weak link in the name of the judiciary, which has from time to time acquitted corruptions suspects, citing lack of evidence.

None less than the president has accused the Judiciary of weakening the war on graft by releasing suspects on favorable bail terms or issuing lenient sentences.  Chief Justice, David Maraga, however, defends the judiciary against such accusations. He has said the prosecution is to blame for prosecuting weak cases. He has also cited lack of material support from the Executive.

As one way of proving the judiciary’s commitment, he has added more magistrates to the anti-corruption court and directed them to sit longer hours to expedite the caseload.

Despite his apparent resolve, Kenyatta has been accused of using the corruption crackdown to rein in political opponents – most notably Deputy President William Ruto, who harbours ambitions to win the presidency in 2022, when Kenyatta must step aside.

Ruto has vigorously defended some of his allies accused of corruption, claiming investigations surrounding them are being driven by political adversaries who are trying to suppress his political clout.

But those who support the president say, the war against corruption has nothing to do with 2022 succession battle. They say some of the people prosecuted are in fact, allies of the president.

There are those that are still skeptical about the president’s resolve to end the vice. These category bay for more blood and say that not much is being done. They want instant jailing of all suspects.

Finally, although a lot still needs to be done there is no doubt that President Uhuru more than any other president before him has put the country on a corruption fighting trajectory. 

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