President William Ruto

President William Ruto. His administration continues to be dogged by corruption, despite his tough stance against the vice.

| Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

Cancer of corruption: Will President Ruto take Uhuru’s bold step of naming and shaming?

President William Ruto’s administration continues to be dogged by corruption, despite his tough stance against the vice.

During his State of the Nation Address in Parliament on Thursday (November 9), the President underscored the need to fight graft, noting that it was a serious threat to Kenya Kwanza’s transformation agenda.

“Corruption, wastage, inefficiency and negligence are serious threats to our transformation agenda, and unacceptable practices that have no place in our nation. I have given my firm assurance to the people of Kenya that cases of misconduct and corruption shall be dealt with ruthlessly, with finality and expeditiously,” the Head of State said.

President Ruto: Cases of misconduct and corruption will be dealt with ruthlessly

He urged Parliament to finalise the Assets Declaration and Conflict of Interest Bill to further tighten “our anti-corruption policy framework, and eliminate space for misbehaviour.”

In his last days in office, former President Uhuru Kenyatta embarked on a rigorous process to put things straight in his government, going against all odds to dismiss some members of his cabinet.

Several senior State officials were arrested and arraigned, but as soon as President Ruto got into office, several cases were withdrawn, generating outcry from the opposition as to the intention.

However, the Head of State has been vocal on graft, recently declaring that those involved have only three options – to “relocate to another country, go to jail or go to heaven.”

This, however, seems not to be the spirit under his Kenya Kwanza administration, owing to the scandals witnessed in the past year.

"There is a big problem. The mosquito net corruption case is a big one, we have people in government who syphoned money meant for mosquito nets, these matters should worry all of us," National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi observes.

In May this year, the Head of State was forced to fire ex-Public Health PS Dr Josephine Mburu, suspended Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) CEO Terry Ramadhani and kicked out the agency's entire board over a Sh4 billion mosquito net supply scandal in July.

But in stark contrast to his promise to deal with perpetrators of the vice, President Ruto would later appoint Ms Ramadhani as the deputy ambassador to India.

Businessman Jimi Wanjigi argues that under the Kenya Kwanza administration; the “cancer of corruption and incompetence,” remains a crisis.

Mr Wanjigi argues that the country’s ballooning debt that is currently choking the country’s economy was unlawfully accumulated by the previous regime of Retired President Uhuru Kenyatta, and repaying it is tantamount to engaging in further corruption.

He says there is a need for an inquiry on the matter.

“This debt is not legal or lawful and whatever is not lawful we are not as a sovereign bound to pay,” he said.

There have also been concerns over conflict of interest touching on senior government officials involved in tenders.

In June, the Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria presented the Senate with a list of 11 companies that the Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC) had contracted to import various commodities as part of President Ruto's plans to reduce the cost of food.

Mr Kuria told the Senate that the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority had given KNTC permission to buy rice, beans, cooking oil and fertiliser directly from companies without going through competitive bidding.

However, Mr Kuria did not reveal the methodology used to narrow down the 11 companies, four of which are owned by a senior civil servant who may have a conflict of interest in doing business with a government agency.

Azimio leader Raila Odinga has termed President Ruto’s regime as disastrous, after just one year in office.

“It is clear that no amount of oratory or extravagant claims can hide the harsh fact that we have had an extremely disastrous and difficult one year and there is no reason whatsoever for Kenyans to believe that the next year will be better,” Mr Odinga said as he gave the Kenya Kwanza scorecard.

He added: “As we begin the second year of the Kenya Kwanza regime, it is clear we are in a reckless race to the bottom.”

Prof Gitile Naituli of the Multi-Media University of Kenya argues that the Kenya Kwanza regime was doing worse than Mr Kenyatta’s administration in terms of corruption.

“For Kenya Kwanza to deal with corruption is like expecting milk from a chicken. This can never happen. The chicken will only lay eggs and not produce milk, so Kenyans should not expect much from this government in terms of ending the vice,” Prof Naituli told Nation.Africa.

He says that corruption in the country was at an “industrial scale.”

“The reason why the Kenya shilling is depreciating against the dollar and all other currencies is because corruption is now being done in foreign currency. We are witnessing corruption as a result of capital flight,” he added.

President Ruto’s senior appointees, close allies and their relatives have bid and won multibillion-shilling contracts in the year that the Kenya Kwanza government has been in power, shining a spotlight on ‘tenderpreneurs’ of the new administration. 

Firms associated with Communications Authority (CA) Board Chairperson Mary Wambui Mungai, Belgut MP Nelson Koech, and Kenya Revenue Authority Chairman Anthony Mwaura were among influential bidders for lucrative contracts that had been advertised by various government agencies. Mr Mwaura was, however, unsuccessful in one particular bid.

In May, it emerged that the National Syndemic Diseases Control Council (NSDCC) may have lost millions of shillings through a string of irregular contract awards and possible violation of procurement laws.

Internal documents show that several contracts, whose values run into millions of shillings, were awarded to companies long before the procurement process started, leaving the NSDCC with crooked books of accounts.

In the same month, the government suspended 27 officers from a dozen institutions who aided the release of expired sugar that was earmarked for destruction in 2018, a move that posed a risk to citizens who may have purchased the product.

Head of Public Service Felix Koskei announced that the suspensions had been instigated by two ministries – the National Treasury headed by Njuguna Ndung’u and Investments and Trade then headed by Moses Kuria – pending completion of investigations into the incident.

The Kenya Bureau of Standards had deemed the 20,000 bags of sugar unfit for human consumption and directed that it be converted into industrial ethanol.