Wednesday, April 26, 2017

It ain't funny no more

Procurement scams have been all the rage these past few years. Government procurement has minted dozens of millionaires and billionaires since the halcyon days of “Yote yawezekana bila Moi.” It is now trite knowledge that if you want to build a multi-million shilling pile in the village to awe the hoi polloi and bend them to your will, all you have to do is win a tender or two and Bob’s your uncle!

This isn’t that surprising. The procurement fiddles during the Kenyatta and Moi eras set the stage for the tenderpreneurship during the Kibaki years. We have now taken this lunacy to its logical conclusion: state capture at any cost.

Unless you have not been paying attention, and even if you don’t own a TV or buy newspapers, by now you must surely have heard of the political candidates who have been abducted, assaulted or threatened as they seek the nominations of their parties. While exaggeration is expected by our vaunted free press, there must be some smidgen of truth in the reports that even candidates for the office of woman representative are spending hundreds of millions to secure victory not just at the nominations but at the general election as well. The reason for this fervent desire to become a mheshimiwa is not so remote: as a member of the government, whether as an elected representative or a member of the executive, comes with privileges available to the public and no privilege is as important as the ability to participate in or influence public procurement.

Those wondering aloud about how a five-year salary of sixty million shillings can justify the outlay of one hundred million to become an elected representative should realise that the world we live in now is one in which shadows and ghosts define public policy and public service. The National Youth Service scam ensnared members of the executive and Parliament and members of the ruling alliance and the opposition coalition. Both the corrupt and the anti-corruption warriors were ensnared in the scam. It is rumoured that almost eight hundred million shillings was stolen but it is likely that the sum is considerably higher as NYS had twenty-five billion shillings budgeted in its name.

Now that every ambitious billionaire-in-waiting knows that the path to financial glory passes through the Consolidated Fund, they are pulling out all the stops to ‘enter government”. It is why blood and tears are being shed even at the nominations stage and it is why aspiring elected representatives are living in fear and travelling with phalanxes of armed bodyguards. When the dust settles after the 9th August, perhaps, we will be able to come to terms with the lunacy of it all because, just as it eventually happened in Venezuela, Pakistan, Italy, the Ukraine and Belarus, state capture, while funny, will have a huge, bloody human cost.

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