Since we attained our independence in 1963, as a state and as a nation we have staggered on the path towards prosperity which was the ultimate Kenyan Dream as envisaged by our independence heroes. This mark-timing has been occasioned by astronomical levels of corruption which now seem to be somewhat irreparable. If in the 1960s we were at par and even better than some of the Asian nations like Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea among others, then it is a big shame for us a country to be trailing these nations economically. Often-times, you will hear politicians speaking and talking about this comparative fact and even going ahead to proclaim how they will institute measures to effectively deal with graft issues. Unfortunately, once in power, they become opportunistic and simplistic by using power as a shield to protect themselves against activities which have been laced with corruption.
Corruption is the primary reason why nearly all of our nation’s economic development plans register high rates of failure; they are hardly implemented. Most of the various plans drafted by the previous governments seem to have been failing since independence to date. In fact, it is more of common sense that our grand master plan, Vision 2030, will remain a mirage if decisive and pragmatic steps and approaches are not adopted to tackle corruption. It is because of this cancerous issue that year in year out we lose 30% of our national budget due to corruption. Take for instance the latest report from the Auditor General concerning the 2014/15 fiscal year in which a whooping shs.450 billion cannot be properly accounted for. Mark you the budget for this 2014/15 financial year was shs.1.6 trillion.
The recent budgetary estimates from the National Treasury which were read out this year to cater for the 2015/16 fiscal year totaled to an all time high of shs.2.2 trillion. If the menace of corruption is not going to be dealt with, then next year we should be prepared to get audit reports which may indicate a loss of approximately shs.660 billion if the 30% mark-up in losses is going to be sustained. The direct losses and indirect losses realized are massive and this drags us in our efforts to transform Kenya into a middle-income economy. The indirect losses are in the form of the number of jobs that are lost, the kilometers of roads foregone as a result of corruption, the number of hospitals and health centres that would have otherwise been constructed, the number of additional police officers that would have improved the ratio of police officers to citizens, the salary increment to the teachers and health personnel which has been a source of industrial strikes. These are just some of the opportunity costs due to corruption.
When the United States of America President Barack Obama was in the country he really lectured us on how corruption is derailing our concerted efforts directed towards socio-economic improvement and transmogrification. In fact, he gave an example of how as a state we are losing approximately 250,000 jobs due to corruption. In as much as he challenged the leaders to fight corruption, he also challenged the citizens to rise up and say “enough is enough”. From my opinion, I will support the US president because it is we the citizens who dish out the bribes as we are ignorant. We are totally ignorant because we think that services offered by state agencies are a privilege but in real sense they are our rights. Therefore, we should not rely on the leaders to stamp out corruption as it is systemic; it is embodied in our daily lives. Hence, in tackling this cancerous issue, the citizens have to be ethically correct and morally right by denouncing any act that breeds corruption.
But from the other side of the coin, it will be a bit of foolhardy to imagine that the citizens alone can sweep away corruption to the bins without goodwill from the political leaders. The major bottleneck that impedes the war against graft is the lack of political goodwill coupled with the politicization of cases that deal with corruption. Take for instance the move by President Uhuru Kenyatta in May to name and shame government officers who were accused to have been involved in corruption in which several Cabinet Secretaries including Charity Ngilu, Davis Chirchir, Felix Kosgei and Engineer Michael Kamau were mentioned. What followed was the propaganda by the former vice president Kalonzo Musyoka and other leaders from the Akamba community who claimed that their ethnic community was being targeted and subsequently victimized following the prosecution of Charity Ngilu. This is utter non-sense.
The anti-corruption agency in Kenya has always been subjected to hegemonic ideals of the political ruling class. The then Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission under Prof. PLO Lumumba was a victim of this political hegemony. The distinguished and flamboyant lawyer was sent packing and the agency taken to the dogs by Members of Parliament for showing intentions of prosecuting the so called “big fish”. Lumumba was seen as the ideal person to tackle graft after succeeding Aaron Ringera whom to me was highly incompetent. Following the promulgation of the new Constitution in 2010, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) was established whose first chairman was the learned friend Mumo Matemu who seem not to have understood his work. Since taking over as the chairperson of EACC until his resignation this year, Matemu hardly oversaw the prosecution of a single corruption case. Is this not gross incompetence? What of the recent rejection by President Kenyatta not to sign the bill that would otherwise have sent the EACC secretariat home? This is a point to ponder about. To be sincere, how do we expect corruption to be tackled if the EACC is to be disbanded?
Methinks that Parliament ought to have discussed on how the anti-graft agency would be accorded more prosecution powers other than advocating for its disbandment. This is where our political leaders err and it clearly depicts a lack of an agenda to deal with corruption. The moment we shall be able to strengthen our anti-corruption body then it will be the first step towards tackling graft. Political leaders must also dance to the drumbeats uniformly instead of the unnecessary politicking and empty rhetoric. The opposition should be in unison with the government in advancing the war against graft. However, the bottom line remains the holistic involvement and initiative of all the people towards fighting this monster of corruption.
As you move on with life every day and every single moment, can you challenge yourself not to be corrupt and be corrupted because the change we always yearn for starts with you and I. Have a successful week devoid of corruption.