Governor Sonko arrest key milestone in anti-corruption war
Two important developments took place last week in the battle against corruption in Kenya.
The first was the arrest of Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, who is to be charged with various counts of abuse of office and money laundering.
This will be the third governor facing graft charges while in office. Given the precedent that has already been set by an earlier court ruling and which is being enforced by courts, Sonko is certainly out of office for the remainder of his term.
This great ruling that governors must stay away from their offices once they have been charged with graft has made it mandatory for governors to leave office until their cases are heard. Of course, they can only return if acquitted of the charges.
Further, it shows that any public servant, however, popular or well-heeled, would be well advised that there is no longer any place to hide. Neither your money, connections or name-dropping, as Sonko is wont to do, will save you when the law finally catches up with you.
Equally as important, is the fact that Sonko will be charged alongside several businessmen who were allegedly awarded tenders corruptly, and paid him big bribes. Corrupt businesspeople have so badly subverted the market in Kenya that it has become virtually impossible to do business.
These crony relationships and cartels have effectively killed off all competition, and made it impossible for other businesses to thrive.
The second key development was the seizing of assets worth millions belonging to a middle level civil servant who could not account for this wealth.
The court ruled that Thomas Gitau, a senior government accountant, forfeits to the State property worth Sh115 million after he failed to account for how he acquired it in two short years. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) proved in court that the property was acquired through proceeds of corruption.
Gitau earned a modest Sh120,000 in salary, but was banking Sh5 million monthly.
Another civil servant, Youth and Gender Principal Secretary, Lilian Amolo, is fighting to stop the Asset Recovery Agency from confiscating Sh33 million in her accounts. Amolo has been trying to convince the courts that the money is not the proceeds of corruption, and was from legitimate sources. The Asset Recovery Agency disagrees, and should the courts agree with the Agency, she will lose the money.
It is only when graft start pinching that people will sit up and take notice.
The bottomline is that a very strong message must be sent that a public office is not for personal enrichment and aggrandisement, but for serving the public.
Kenyans have for too long had a completely jaundiced view of public service, which is seen as a platform to amass wealth through receiving bribes for service, and cuts on tenders. This mentality must be plucked out.
It must become clear that people who want to make money must become businesspeople, and go through the sweat, toil and tears that characterises entrepreneurship. If you are a public servant, be satisfied with your pay and serve Kenyans.
Finally, there must be closure on corruption cases. It boggles the mind how cases of grand corruption, fraud, and drugs keep permanently winding their way through the court system.
Courts have claimed that the cases they get are not strong enough to convict. Fair enough, but then, they should just hear out the cases and convict or release as appropriate.
The current merry go round on corruption cases in Kenyan courts is complete abdication by the Judiciary.— [email protected]