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Corruption is a rite of passage in Kenya

By Ndung'u Wainaina | Sunday, Feb 19th 2017 at 08:11
The culture of impunity in which wrongdoers know full well that they will not face punishment for their crimes must stop

Corruption has greatly crushed Kenya’s integrity and reputation — we are known world over.

This vice has undermined the rule of law as well as the confidence of citizens in their national and county governments.

Sadly, as we speak, corruption is busy facilitating human rights abuses and organised crime, empowering authoritarianism and creating an unaccountable political leadership.

This madness has exposed the country to terrorism, transnational organised crime — making ours a safe haven for international criminals.

And we are paying a high price for it.

Graft has scared away investors, stifled economic growth, decreased investment and trade, and consequently costs young people jobs.

Meanwhile, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption commission is busy dancing to the dictim of the Executive — rather than executing its mandate independently, professionally and effectively.

Studies have linked corruption to increasing levels of poverty and income inequality. That is why it is vital to fight corruption. And if we want to tackle both high level and petty corruption decisively, we (Kenyans) must demand enforcement of independence, professionalism, accountability and restoring the public’s trust in key criminal justice institutions such as the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the National Police Service, Kenya national audit office and the Criminal Investigation Department.

Today — and which has been the case for a very long time — civil servants are at the centre of plundering public funds. This people must not be allowed to engage themselves in business — as this is a recipe for corruption.

It is time the laws governing the fight on corruption, public officers’ ethics, and public Service and public financial management were amended to bar public officials from doing any business with the State.

What is at stake here is our country’s economy, security, and democracy. So don’t lament! Act! Kenyans must protest. Let our anger towards corruption flow like an endless stream.

We have a good Constitution, but which is disregarded with impunity.

Public servants manipulate procurement and other procedures to unfairly benefit themselves, yet no action is taken against them.

This is why the government must put in place a strict system of disclosure, verification, and enforcing compliance. Cracking down on the business interests of civil servants is not enough; this must go hand in hand with similar prohibitions on elected and nominated representatives.

Civil servants should be made to declare business interests of their extended families so that cases of conflict of interest are eliminated. This must be followed by mandatory auditing of the lifestyle of public officials. Those found culpable must be punished, not rewarded as is often the case.

The culture of impunity where wrongdoers know full well that they will not face punishment for their crimes must stop.

The last nail to the coffin of corruption is decriminalising Kenya politics by barring those with corruption, abuse of office and other related cases from holding political office — politics must cease to be the protector of criminals and corrupt individuals.

Politicians, who have amassed wealth by corrupt means must be identified, their wealth seized and their fat frames thrown to jail. This will act as a deterrent to others fiddling with the thought of stealing from the public coffers.

There should be no sacred cows. The government must forge a new path in running the public service.

The writer is the executive director, International Centre for Policy and Conflict.

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