Sunday, August 25, 2013

Anti-corruption Warrior-in-Chief? Has hell frozen over?

If corruption will be vanquished only when Uhuru Kenyatta stops sitting on his hands, then we are in deep trouble. Once more I am compelled to partially disagree with Ahmednasir Abdullahi's proposition. (President is best suited to end corruption, Sunday Nation, 26/08/13.) But if Mr Abdullahi intended that grand corruption will be vanquished because of the President's actions, I have no quarrel with that. And when we speak of grand corruption, we mean the acts of official corruption that have granted us new phrases in our political lexicon: Goldenberg and Anglo-Leasing are merely the most popular.

Kenyans, for the most part, think of corruption in terms of the likes of Goldenberg or Anglo-Leasing. Very few imagine that they are corrupt or must act corruptly in order to make it through their day. The corruptors and corrupted would be glad if the President took a more hands-on approach to corruption; it would mean that they would most likely not be caught or punished. The ones who would worry, and who should worry if the President does get into the anti-corruption racket, are the ones making procurement decisions in the government and its agencies. Mrs Shollei is only the first of many high-profile public officers who will undergo enhanced official scrutiny if the President stops sitting on his hands.

But, in the words of the unlamented former Director-General of the Kenya Anti-corruption Commission PLO Lumumba, the small fish will have a field day. It is in the unseen world of the hoi polloi where corruption is insidiously rife. I wonder if Mr Abdullahi would be shocked to know that the seeds of petty corruption are planted when we are still trying to overcome our hormonal urges while in High School. What would he say if he were to know that students who seek medical attention in the public hospitals near their boarding schools must part with a facilitation fee for the doctor who sees them? What would he say if he were to know that when seventeen-year old truants, testing the boundaries of their guardians by going to night clubs and beer dens, nowadays carry an extra 500 shillings for the policemen who will confront them on their way home from their night of revelry?

The battle against corruption, grand or otherwise, will not be won only because the President has a stake in its success. It will be won when Kenyans, collectively, take a stand against it. Kenyans will take a stand against it if they trust that they will not be required to solicit, or give, bribes for municipal services that should be their as of right. To that end, a bureaucratic monster in the guise of an anti-corruption commission is a grand waste of public finances and resources. Special anti-corruption courts are a waste of judicial time and resources.

If one examines the constitutional and legislative anti-corruption environment, one is confronted by Article 10, Chapter Six, Articles 225 and 227, and Article 232 of the Constitution; the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission Act, 2012; the Public Procurement and Disposal Act, 2003; the Public Financial Management Act, 2012; and the Penal Code. The institutional framework has the anti-corruption Commission; the Commission on Administrative Justice; the Public Procurement Oversight Authority; the Central Bank; the National Police Service; the Judiciary; and many many more. The war on corruption is not being lost because the President sitting on his hands; it is being lost because Kenyans have not bought into the premise that corruption is an inherently bad thing.

Even if Mr Kenyatta ordered all the players in the anti-corruption game to step up their efforts, he will find it impossible to monitor their efforts. On the other hand, if he wanted to fire the laggards in the pack, he would need the National Assembly to agree with him. If there is a Member of the Eleventh Parliament who has demonstrated a capacity for fighting the corruption wars of the past two decades and has a record of achievement, he (or she) has managed to camouflage himself (or herself) rather deftly. Parliament will not be Mr Kenyatta's partner in a renewed onslaught against the citadels of corruption, big or small.

The solution, as with all things, is simple in theory, and hairy to implement in reality. Simply enforce the laws of the land as they were meant to be enforced. There should be no special favours or considerations. If you are caught in wrongdoing, only a good lawyer should get you off. If you wish to trade with the government, you should not sweeten your tender with a briefcase full of dollars. And so on and so forth. Theory? Good. Implementation? When hell freezes over.

No comments:

Go away.

A short video doing the rounds on social media shows former vice-president Kalonzo Musyoka and former Mombasa senator Omar Hasan changing wo...