Kenyatta forms committee to fight corruption

Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta has yielded to pressure and formed a committee of public officials, private sector players and the media to come up with a strategy on how to fight corruption.

In the past two months, Kenyans have seen one corruption scandal after the other of recent the loss of Ksh791 million ($7.6 million) at the National Youth Service (NYS) over which several quarters have called for Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru to be sacked.

After a meeting with Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) on Wednesday it was agreed that Ms Waiguru would be a state witness against her juniors.

However, a section of MPs are determined to have her impeached despite two motions being rejected by the Speaker.

The committee comprises the Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua, Cabinet Secretaries for National Treasury (Henry Rotich), IndustrialiSation (Adan Mohamed), Interior and Information Communication Technology (Dr Fred Matiang’i). They will be joined by the chief executive officer of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Halakhe Waqo  and representatives from the Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa), the legislature and the media.

EACC is currently without commissioners after Chairman Mumo Matemu and vice chairperson Irene Keino resigned in May, following a vote by parliament to place them under tribunal investigations. The other member, Jane Onsongo, had resigned earlier in March citing threats to her life.

The President gave the committee one week to come up with a a strategy and plan on combat what he termed as an “untamable beast” as the spotlight on corruption turned on the role of the private sector.

“We need to come up with concrete and comprehensive measures to confront corruption. Whatever the team recommends is what we shall implement to defeat corruption,” said President Uhuru during the fifth Presidential Roundtable with the private sector.

Mr Waqo said slow adjudication and lenient sentencing were emboldening thieves despite a record 286,000 cases being in court.

“This shows we are working although the adjudication process is still slow on matters corruption”, said Mr Waqo. He said courts gave low fines and short custodial deterrents despite the law having options of fines above Sh 800,000, seven years in jail or both on conviction of offenders.

Kepsa said it was drafting a Bill which if passed into law would see owners of businesses operating across borders pursued for corruption perpetrated in any of the EAC countries.

The Kepsa Draft Bribery Bill intends to prevent the vice by pegging action on intentions rather than actual proof of corruption.

Kenya Association of Manufacturers, which is a key member in Kepsa, said this would make the law more effective. 

“The law which is in final stages of drafting will narrow focus to private sector for those who give bribes, solicit or act as intermediaries,” Ms Wakiaga, the KAM chief executive officer, said. The Bill also contains an extra-territorial clause to prosecute individuals for corruption committed anywhere in East Africa.

As part of turning the spotlight on corruption on the private sector, President Uhuru Kenyatta has ordered all government departments to procure goods and services from the 200 companies that are bound by the Kepsa code of ethics.

The EACC has established that 70 per cent of corruption cases were related to procurement, with only 20 per cent of the 280 cases in court involving direct bribery.

“In essence we are saying 70 per cent of corruption is basically in this tent, it’s either in the government or you who supply the government,” the president told the private sector.

On Thursday, 11 diplomats pledged support for the war on corruption through the denial of travel documents to public officials implicated in corruption.

They said the government should provide the EACC with resources to enable the agency fight the scourge effectively.

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“The problem is that a lot of powers were taken away from the agency in the constitutional making process because the politicians were quite ruthless towards an agency supposed to put them under check,” said John Githongo, the former anti-corruption csar.

Kenya was among the first countries to ratify the UN Convention Against Corruption in 2003. This led to the introduction of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act and the Public Officer Ethics Act (POEA).

The POEA created a system of wealth declarations in Kenya, requiring all public officers and their spouses to declare their wealth.

Although the wealth declaration — also known as Income and Assets declaration — legislation was ambitious from the outset, it has not yielded tangible results in reducing corruption. One of the weaknesses of the legislation is that the public could not have access to what has been declared except through a court order..