State House Summit: Political will a lethal weapon against corruption
At a State House Summit on governance and accountability held three years ago, President Uhuru Kenyatta, berated senior government officials for waging a half-hearted fight on corruption.
“Mnataka nifanye nini jameni? Mimi silindi ufisadi, ni nyinyi mmeshindwa na kazi,” he said (What do you want me to do? I don’t protect the corrupt. It is you who have slept on the job).
This statement shocked many as it was interpreted as an admission by no less an authority than the Commander-in-Chief that the corruption war was lost.
He received a backlash, with political commentators and governance experts blaming him for not creating a conducive political environment for the independent institutions to perform their duties.
The summit, which was attended by representatives of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), the Office of the Attorney General, the office of the Auditor General and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), ended in a ping-pong game on who is more responsible for the failure of the war against graft.
In his second term, Uhuru seems to have realised that he has many options in the anti-graft fight, after acknowledging that the vice was likely, not only to tarnish his legacy but also undermine his ‘Big Four’ agenda.
He started by reorganising the leadership of key strategic institutions and departments mandated to lead the anti-corruption efforts, by getting rid of faces that were largely seen as gatekeepers in his administration. This signalled the seriousness of intention to deal with graft.
The impact of the reorganisation is seen through the zeal with which the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Director of Criminal Investigations have taken up their duties, triggering panic among suspects and heralding a new chapter in the anti-graft purge.
Similarly, the changes at the EACC secretariat with the exit of the former CEO, opens a new page and injects fresh blood and new energy in the lead agency and the fight against corruption.
The adoption of a national multi-agency and multi-sectorial approach led by Multi-Agency Task Team (MATT) to fight corruption leaves no room for blame game among the agencies, as was the case previously. Key institutions in MATT include EACC, ODPP, DCI, office of the Auditor General and Attorney General.
The government’s fired up war against corruption has not only won public approval but also the support of the opposition led by Raila Odinga.
According to a communique by the Building Bridges Initiative, which can be said to speak for both the President and the former Prime Minister, “Corruption is an existential threat to our Kenya.
It is destroying lives, public trust and prosperity. It is being passed to the young generation, making a mockery of their hopes and their need to forge an honest and proud living. It is undermining our public and private institutions and will destroy them and our aspirations as a nation.”
Kenya has also attracted the support of foreign envoys who have been consistent in their calls for action against corrupt public officials and pledging both material and technical support to the agencies in the forefront of the fight.
Mutual Legal Assistance Agreements have also been signed with various countries to ease recovery of assets from various parts of the world as well as the repatriation of criminals and their proceeds to face justice at home.
With this shared view of corruption among the government, the opposition, the external partners, and the concerted efforts of the MATT, we have no excuse, as a country, not to put behind bars anyone involved in corruption, seize and return stolen assets or, at the very least, disrupt corruption cartels that have brought the country to its knees. We are on course! — The writer is a legal officer with EACC. The opinions are his own — [email protected]