War on graft gaining traction but much more remains to be done

court gavel cuffs

This positive trend in fight against corruption heralds better days ahead for public funds and the economy.

Photo credit: Courtesy

The first step in taking responsibility is admission of it, so goes the saying. That is what President Uhuru Kenyatta did when he said the government that he heads is riddled with corruption, adding that his office led in the vice.

Following that humbling admission, the President committed to intensify the onslaught on graft suspects. He pledged that nobody would be spared once found culpable, even those deemed close to him.

In November 2015, he declared corruption a threat to national security. Further, he formed a multi-agency team that would coordinate, cooperate and collaborate in anti-graft interventions to reap the benefits of synergy.

The team has made immense progress, as seen in the high-profile charges and convictions, including of senior government officials. Its strategy—investigation and recovery; asset preservation through freezing of assets suspected to be proceeds of corruption; and proactive probes—has alleviated loss of public funds by disrupting corruption networks and deals.

In 2019, Henry Rotich became the first member of the Cabinet to be arrested, charged in court and sacked over corruption claims, alongside his principal secretary and 26 other officials at the National Treasury.

This was due to the multi-billion-shilling scandal involving the construction of the Arror and Kimwarer dams. And for defrauding the state, Sirisia MP John Walukhe and his business partner, Grace Wakhungu, were convicted and historically sentenced to decades in jail with fines five times what they were found guilty of acquiring illegally.

Former Kiambu governor Ferdinand Waititu and his Nairobi counterpart Mike Sonko, both of whom were impeached to pave the way for investigations, the latter’s predecessor, Dr Evans Kidero, and Samburu’s Moses Lenolkulal are some of the high-ranking politicians facing graft charges in court involving millions of taxpayers’ money.

The President was quoted in the media as saying the country loses close to Sh2 billion a day, or Sh700 billion yearly—which is a third of the country’s annual budget. Yet the authorities say their interventions since 2013 have rescued Sh70.769 billion through recovery and disruption of corrupt deals.

Disappointing underperformance

But then, the amount of assets recovered and secured shows a disappointing underperformance in the fight against the greatest threat to the growth, development and stability of the country: Corruption. Notably, there are cases pertaining to corruption that have dragged on in court for years.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission’s (EACC) “Report of activities and financial statements for the Financial Year 2019/2020” shows that, as of 2020, there were graft cases in court involving more than Sh13.8 billion. Cases involving over Sh82.113 billion have been flagged and are under investigation by the EACC. Reports since 2013 show an increase in the number of cases forwarded to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. But they also show an increase in the value of assets recovered and secured.

This positive trend heralds better days ahead for public funds and the economy.

The high number of graft cases that have stalled in the courts portray the Judiciary as a weak link in the war on corruption. There have been allegations of bribery and collusion of certain judges with suspects to avert the course of justice. If the Judiciary choses to honour the calling by Kenyans and expedite the just prosecution of these cases, we will see better results. The Judiciary has also been issuing orders sought by the suspects to frustrate investigators. That should stop.

The war on graft will take the goodwill of every Kenyan, agency and arm of government to win. As the captain of the ship that is the government, President Kenyatta, putting all hands on deck by appointing the right people for the job and throwing his weight behind them is as far as he can go, given the Constitution’s articulacy on everyone’s role.

Politicians who rush to the media crying “political persecution” when they or their allies are implicated in graft should be ashamed of themselves. Anybody implicated in graft should clear their names or return stolen public assets. Everybody with evidence of graft should present the same to the relevant authorities and not political rallies. Only then can the war against corruption be won.


Mr Mugwang’a is a communications consultant. [email protected]

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