President now has chance to prove he is serious about fighting corruption

By: MACHARIA GAITHO

When President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto unveiled their Jubilee Coalition Cabinet in May 2013, I was duly impressed with the CVs on display.

I noted that some of the appointees, drawn for the first time from outside the political arena, came with stellar credentials from the world of banking and finance, academia, public service, and the professions.

But I also noted that being a competent bureaucrat, professional, or teacher in itself was no big deal.

My worry was that the Cabinet was sorely lacking in men and women of vision and big ideas, the dreamers and agents of change required to drive a radical economic and social transformation required to kick Kenya into the next level.

I can hazard now that the retention of the conservative, reactionary mind-set is responsible for the Uhuru-Ruto agenda being stuck in a rut.

Now that the Cabinet has been struck by a tsunami.

The exit of powerful Planning and Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru means that six out of 20 Cabinet slots are vacant following the earlier departures over graft allegations.

Ms Waiguru over the weekend followed colleagues Charity Ngilu (Lands), Michael Kamau (Transport), Kazungu Kambi (Labour), Davis Chirchir (Energy), and Felix Koskei (Agriculture) through the exit door over corruption in her ministry.

Six out of 20 Cabinet slots vacant is not a small number.

The President and Deputy President must therefore move without further delay to fill the gaps.

RETURN OF CORRUPTION

If the floundering dynamic duo finally wants to make a difference, it must go beyond style and showmanship and bring into the fold men and women who really want to make a difference.

The government needs visionaries and radicals to shake things up by discarding the old ways of bureaucratic inertia and rent-seeking and bringing in brave fresh ideas in practice, not just in ambitious campaign manifestoes.

Of course priority must also be in appointing an incorruptible lot who will not countenance the theft of public assets that now seems endemic in the Jubilee government.

I assume that institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, Barclays Bank, and other multilateral and commercial corporations with global footprints would not countenance in their ranks managers who wink at corruption.

The government of Kenya must now stand on that moral platform.

The return of grand corruption, despite all the anti-graft rhetoric, has already become a big blight on the Uhuru-Ruto administration.

A clean-up of the Cabinet will present the coalition principals the chance to prove that they are indeed committed to rooting out graft and that it has not just been empty rhetoric and mere words.

The problem is that the duo campaigned on a platform that expressly trashed the constitutional provisions barring from public office characters of dubious moral and ethical standing.

I know for a fact that early in the campaigns, Mr Kenyatta’s TNA party wanted to enforce the code of ethics and leadership by denying the party ticket for parliamentary or other electoral seats to aspirants implicated in corruption or generally of suspect mores.

Along the way, somebody realised that enforcing the leadership code would also work against the coalition presidential ticket because Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto were facing indictment for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.

THE COMPANY WE KEEP

The doors were thus opened for all the usual crooks, con men, spivs, and charlatans to whom we prefer to entrust leadership.

Even if Cabinet secretaries untainted by sleaze and graft are brought in from Mars, they might have no impact whatsoever because at the policy and oversight level Kenya is still under firm control of crooks in the political establishment.

So the big challenge is whether the President and his deputy can eject all the Mafiosi within their immediate inner circles.

The surfeit of aides, relatives, friends, and business partners who are misusing proximity to State House and the Office of the Deputy President to feather their own nests must be removed if Kenya is to conquer its biggest threat.

We are known by the company we keep. Any person who moves around with crooks must himself be a crook.

Will President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto seize the opportunity to disabuse us of that notion in respect to themselves?

SOURCE: DAILY NATION