EACC head must be principled, diplomatic and focused

Integrity Centre, the headquarters of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, in Nairobi. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • The person who will be selected to head the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission is obliged to handle internal conflict and serve as effective and articulate spokesperson.
  • They should not only be conversant with legal, policy, and institutional arrangements for fighting corruption, but also be able to withstand political pressure that comes with the high-profile job.
  • Needless to say, they must be of the highest integrity.

The public discourse on corruption in Kenya is getting louder and it is shaping up to be one of the issues that will likely dominate the rhetoric in the election campaigns. President Kenyatta turned up the heat on the subject last week during the Governance and Accountability Summit at State House when he expressed his frustration at the ineptitude of the government agencies charged with the task of fighting corruption.

The statement triggered strong reaction from the opposition and other quarters, with some accusing the President and the Jubilee administration of being responsible for the rise in corruption in recent years. Some of the critics have urged the President to disband the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), stating that the agency has failed to deliver on its mandate.

My question is, would shutting down the EACC be the right response to its perceived ineffectiveness? I do not think so. In my opinion, disbanding the agency would amount to throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The EACC is a necessary and critical institution with a clear mandate to serve as the lead institution in our collective war against the beast of corruption. If EACC is broken, then we need to talk about how to fix it and make it work.

In its current state, the commission clearly does not have the trust and confidence of the Kenyan public. There is a strongly held perception that the organisation is itself corrupt and incapable of leading the fight against graft. This may well be true, but that is not a reason to disband it.


The Kenyan leadership on both the government and the opposition side need to take a step back and recognise that the war on corruption is not a war between “us” and “them”. Corruption exists at all levels of our society and has become a serious impediment to the country’s progress. It is a pervasive spirit that has spread like a cancer into all facets of our lives, killing the hopes and dreams of entire generations. It robs the country of its dignity and poses a real threat to our national security.

The war on corruption is a war of values that requires the entire society to dig down to the root of the problem and not just focus on the visible effects of the rot. As much as I would like to see more corrupt people being prosecuted and sent to jail, the reality is that this is only part of what the EACC needs to do.

The organisation needs to strike a careful balance between the important task of punishing corrupt individuals and ensuring that it fulfils its other equally important mandates. These include public education and the promotion of integrity, transparency, and accountability in the management of public affairs. In the final analysis, victory in the war on corruption will require changing the hearts and minds of Kenyans. Until we as a nation become fed up and emotionally dissatisfied with the status quo, then this talk of war will be just that: talk.


EACC is failing in part because of its leadership. The agency is in need of strong, credible leadership to guide it through the turbulent waters of politics and the vast array of vested interests. Unfortunately, the commission once again finds itself operating without a substantive chairperson.

The Public Service Commission has embarked on a recruitment to fill the seat left by Mr Philip Kinisu, who left after only eight months. Given the high turnover of chairmen at the EACC over the past few years, finding the right person to lead the institution at this critical moment will not be easy.

The man or woman selected must be principled, diplomatic and focused, a mature, level-headed man or woman who can handle internal conflict and serve as an effective and articulate spokesperson for the institution. The person should not only be conversant with the legal, policy, and institutional arrangements for fighting corruption, but he or she should be able to withstand the political pressure that comes with the high-profile job. Needless to say, he or she must also be a person of the highest integrity.

Pete Ondeng is a leadership and governance consultant.