Tuesday, November 01, 2016

It's time

When you read the words "national disaster", you think of devastation on a massive scale, whose immediacy, speed, destructive power and catastrophic consequences overwhelm conventional emergency services such as municipal fire, police or ambulance services. More often than not, national disasters tend to be natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes or erupting volcanoes. 

Not all disasters have the immediacy of, say, earthquakes of floods; they may take months or even years before their devastation is realised. Think of HIV/AIDS which sometimes demonstrates a sloth-like pace before suddenly the healthcare system is overwhelmed by thousands of patients who become a drain on its facilities, doctors, diagnostic services and palliative care systems. The HIV/AIDS pandemic's effects reflect the same devastation on the body politic as corruption. So it is not so far-fetched to describe corruption as a national disaster.

In recent months, not a week has passed without some revelation of mendacity and malfeasance in the financial affairs of the State. Both the national and county governments have been revealed to be riddled with men and women willing to bend or break the law in their selfish pursuit of private gains from public treasure. That they are responsible for the immiseration of millions of Kenyans seems not to have pricked their consciences leading some of us to conclude that these men and women must have a measure of sociopathy in their psychological profiles.

The corruption of the financial affairs of the State is so widespread that Kenyans instinctively believe every wild rumour about financial impropriety regardless of its provenance. But that doesn't obscure that corruption has so infested the State's official and unofficial organs that not even technological barriers have prevented the unlawful expropriation of billions of shillings meant for the common good. The much-vaunted Integrated Financial Management Information System, designed to assign responsibility and power to key public servants during the procurement of goods and services by the public service has proven to be no barrier to the corruption that continues to bedevil public procurement.

It is time we admitted to ourselves that corruption has enervated every level of the government, hollowed out many policing authorities, overwhelmed the public prosecutor's office as well as the judiciary such that it cannot be tackled without concerted national attention. A declaration of national disaster might be the only way to focus national attention on all the sectors that require action, including investigations and judicial procedures.  The time has come for all Kenyans to take part in the war on graft, to shame the thieves and to punish them without mercy. Sitting on fences and passing of bucks will no longer cut it.

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