The head of EACC, the anti-corruption agency, Mr Twalib Mbarak, was on television recently blaming the voters for the level of corruption among politicians. He thinks the voters were at fault for voting in thieves. I beg to disagree with him.
Voting is not in itself a crime; it is our civil right. Voting in a thief is not a crime either—although I think it now ought to be. What is a crime is stealing public funds, for which the thieves must be severely punished. This is crucial to protect the victims, who, in this case, are voters and taxpayers, from being financially abused. Theft of public funds, especially by politicians, is abuse of power, punishable by law.
The independent agencies established to deal with economic crimes or corruption, have let Kenyans down and must take the blame. Victim-blaming is apportioning blame on the wrong people. EACC, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) and the Judiciary have failed to tame corruption despite having been given teeth to bite. There are enough laws in our Constitution at their disposal to deal with economic crimes across the board.
Presuming that it is only politicians involved in crime is a myopic way to look at a problem that affects all facets of our lives. Kenyans have, by nature, become corrupt, both in the private and public sector. There is no corrupt traffic police officer without a bribing motorist. Having said that, our politicians have made it their God-given right to steal from the taxpayers. Even poor counties like Turkana, Marsabit, Tana River, Garissa, Mandera and Wajir are losing billions of shillings to corrupt leaders.
Despite being given the responsibility to deal with economic crimes, our anti-corruption agencies, particularly Judiciary and the Prosecution, have made it their role to offer de facto blanket immunity to senior public officials, politicians and any other public figure. They are offering freedom from prosecution like sweets at a kindergarten children’s ‘fun day’.
The flurry of withdrawals of corruption cases involving several public figures proves the inefficient and corrupt manner with which ODPP and the courts work. Their modus operandi is to shield corrupt people, so it seems, and not protect the public interest and purse.
Devolution was meant to bring development closer to Kenyans. By that, it was going to level up the counties and create equity. What many counties are experiencing at the hands of politicians, however, is anything but development. The effect of huge development budgets in the counties are hardly felt by the service users. There is little difference between the under-development experienced in Kenya from the centralised system and that of devolution.
The Auditor-General’s Office has, time and again, issued reports showing development funds had not been used for the purposes intended. In the report on the 2020/2021 Financial Year, Nancy Gathungu, the Auditor-General, reported that Sh25 billion could not be accounted for by six counties—namely, Nairobi, Murang’a Kisumu, Baringo, Narok and Vihiga.
The amount of money Kenya loses yearly must be monumental if we were to combine the losses in all the 47 counties. Which means more suffering for Kenyans.
One key aspect raised by the Auditor-General’s Office is lack of internal audit in the counties. Establishment of audit offices within the counties should have been commensurate with that of all the other county offices. I read mischief in the absence of internal audit offices in the counties. This seems a deliberate effort to lay loopholes within the counties to make it easier for embezzlement of public funds.
EACC has ordered the establishment of internal audit mechanisms in the counties but only time will tell whether this will be realised any time soon or dragged on to the benefit of corrupt leaders.
Fighting corruption is a matter of law and not perception, emotion or personal considerations. For the head of EACC to think it is the voters to blame for the corruption mess we are in, therefore, shows how little understanding such institutions have of their role, perhaps.
The heads of Prosecution, Judiciary and EACC have a legal duty to end corruption in the country. Theirs is to punish looters of public funds and not walk about looking for whom to blame when thieves are staring at them in the eye. Without jailing so-called ‘big fish’ and ‘cartels’, there will never be deterrence.
There has been a lot of talk about ending corruption, even from the presidents in the past and current times, but nobody seems to walk the talk. Gathering officials for conferences about ending corruption is just another drain on public finances. The institutions mandated to end corruption know what they are meant to do but are deliberately looking the other way, far from the law. EACC, Judiciary and ODPP contravening the law to frustrate anti-graft efforts is corruption.
The above institutions are publicly funded so as to protect public funds. If they fail in their legal duties, they must be the first to be punished. Enough of victim-blaming on corruption!
Ms Guyo is a legal researcher, [email protected]. @kdiguyo