What you need to know:
- Billions of shillings is lost through graft every year.
- Yet the war against the vice has been hampered by legal loopholes, leading to delays in prosecuting suspects and convicting the culprits.
- Numerous high-profile corruption cases have stalled in the courts due to the slow judicial process and that has serious implications.
Corruption remains the single most destructive factor that undermines economic growth. Billions of shillings is lost through graft every year. Yet the war against the vice has been hampered by legal loopholes, leading to delays in prosecuting suspects and convicting the culprits. Numerous high-profile corruption cases have stalled in the courts due to the slow judicial process and that has serious implications.
Suspects adept at manipulating systems obstruct cases and end up escaping punishment after stealing from the public. And the converse is true: Innocent people accused of fraud endure a long wait to have their suits determined, undermining due process. As the legal maxim proclaims, justice delayed is justice denied.
This background gives a reason to canvass the proposed Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2020, which, among others, proposes changes to the anti-corruption law. Specifically, it proposes a strict timeline for concluding corruption cases; they have to be decided within two years. It also seeks to empower the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to rein in public officers with secret offshore accounts. Cases abound of officials who stash ill-gotten cash in foreign accounts, especially in countries that that have closely guarded banking systems.
These two issues are vital in fighting corruption. The speed of determining such cases gives confidence in the judicial system and government and sends a strong message to perpetrators of the vice that they have nowhere to hide. But to achieve that goal, other agencies must play their part. Investigative agencies and the Directorate of Public Prosecution have to conduct thorough and expeditious investigations and only present incontrovertible evidence that would sustain conviction in court.
Often, cases collapse due to shoddy investigation and weak evidence. In itself, that is either due to incompetence or willful deficiency intended to save suspects from conviction. Added to that are incidents where cases collapse due to sibling rivalry as investigators and prosecutors clash, seeking to outdo each other.
These underscore the fact that the graft war requires a regime where judicial officers, investigators and prosecutors work in sync. The law is not enough if its executors operate at cross-purposes.
The onus is on Parliament to revitalise the war on graft. We call for thorough debate, where issues are critically examined, leading to the appropriate resolution. Law review entails interrogating and distilling facts and connecting them to prevailing socioeconomic conditions. MPs should critically examine the proposed laws and make proper determination to strengthen and expedite the process of investigation, prosecution and arbitration.
That is the starting point of eliminating the endemic vice.