Fight against graft likely to be an electoral issue in 2017

By: GEORGE KEGORO

This is not the first time that Kenya finds itself helpless on how to address corruption.

Towards the end of the Daniel Moi era, the country reached a similar point and, feeling that he had to do something about it, President Moi invited a private British firm, The Risk Advisory Group, to advise on how the country could address corruption.

The firm worked for four weeks, charging the government Sh22 million, which was a large sum in 2002.

PLAGIARISED REPORT

Their report did not contain anything particularly new and, in a subsequent parliamentary question, a Member of Parliament, Wanyiri Kihoro, charged that the British firm had heavily plagiarised a previous report of a parliamentary select committee on corruption.

In retrospect, it is clear that Moi, who was not especially committed to the fight against corruption, nevertheless took the action of inviting a foreign firm to advise him because he needed to create the impression that something was going on in the fight against corruption.

This was a time-buying gimmick, one that would give him breathing space, as he planned his own succession.

Today, Jubilee has taken Kenya back to 2001.

CORRUPTION IN AFRICA

The President’s anti-corruption gesture, articulated during the State of the Nation address, has failed to generate new energy in the fight against corruption.

I attended a conference in Cape Town last week, convened by the German political foundation, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, to discuss the situation of corruption in Africa.

The conference provided me with fresh tools for assessing Kenya’s chances of addressing the problem of corruption.

Making a presentation, the Ghanaian professor, Kwame Frimpong, identified three conditions that must exist for an effective anti-corruption strategy.

These are, first, a leadership that supports the fight against corruption; second, enabling institutional arrangements; and, third, public support for anti-corruption efforts.

A leadership committed to the fight against corruption provides an important general indication of how the country views corruption, and is itself a source of confidence to public officials and citizens as to how anti-corruption norms will be enforced.

Another term that describes leadership is “political will”.

NO POLITICAL WILL TO FIGHT CORRUPTION

Many facts suggest that Kenya does not currently have unqualified political support for the fight against corruption.

For one, both the President and the Deputy President have themselves been accused of promoting corruption but these accusations have always been resolved in a manner that avoids an independent investigation.

The accusations against the President stem from the manner in which tenders for flagship Jubilee projects have been processed.

The accusations against the DP are more transactional and range from such dealings as the Weston Hotel, the mysterious land invasion in Karen and the little matter of Adrian Muteshi’s land in Turbo.

There is also a perception that similarly placed officials in the Jubilee Government bear different consequences in the fight against corruption, with Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru seen as enjoying special protection.

WEAK INSTITUTIONS

The reference to institutional arrangements covers both the laws as well as the bureaucratic bodies established to fight corruption.

While, ultimately, a large number of institutions are involved, the focal ones include the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, the police and the Director of Public Prosecutions and the courts.

The frailties of these institutions are well-known and the EACC, in particular, is currently paralysed, all its commissioners having been removed from office, following integrity concerns against them. The police are not seen as a model public institution.

The third layer in arrangements in the fight against corruption is the public.

The public indicates its preferences through electoral choices.

Between elections, the capacity that the public has to generate and express opinion on the performance of government is an important check on how the government behaves.

THE ICC FACTOR

While during the 2013 elections corruption was not a key electoral issue, a link can now be made between the Kenyan ICC cases, an important issue in the last elections, and the corruption that is now blighting the country.

It has become clear that, contrary to promises they made to the electorate during campaigns, the Jubilee leadership always intended to capture state power and use it as a shield against the charges against the ICC.

Although the use of state power in this manner has compromised the public interest, there has been no serious demand for a separation between state and individuals in the management of the ICC cases.

Thus, in return for surrendering the state to them for use as a private shield, the President and Deputy President have also allowed others to use the same state as a cash cow.

The ongoing latitude that the Jubilee leadership enjoys, to use the state as a shield against the ICC, would be renegotiated if they took threatening action against corruption.

Thus, Kenya cannot and will not fight corruption because, firstly, Jubilee lacks the leadership necessary to mount an anti-corruption campaign and, secondly, the enabling institutional mechanisms do not currently exist.

Moreover, establishing such mechanisms is not in Jubilee’s interests and would, in fact, threaten Jubilee.

The 2017 election can become an important turning point as it will provide the opportunity to make the fight against corruption an electoral issue.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION