NAIROBI, Nov 14 (NNN-KBC) — President Uhuru Kenyatta met with business leaders under the umbrella group Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), where they resolved to confront corruption head-on.

The Presidential roundtable was also attended by Deputy President William Ruto, cabinet ministers, and members of KEPSA at State House.

It was candid, frank, open and passionate over the challenges and manifestations of corruption – real and perceived.

After the meeting where members of Kepsa were also accused of perpetrating the vice especially in parliament, President Kenyatta immediately constituted a multi-sectoral committee comprising the executive, several ministries, departments and the private sector to map out a national strategy to combat graft which the meeting described as an “untameable beast”.

The newly constituted committee comprises the Chief of Staff and Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua, Cabinet secretaries for National Treasury, Industrialization, Interior and Information Communication Technology (ICT).

The other members to the committee include the Chief Executive Officer of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Halakhe Waqo and representatives from the Kenya Revenue Authority and Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs).

The rest will be drawn from the legislature, and the media.

Kepsa will nominate its own members to the team which has one week to come up with a framework including a strategy and plan on how to overcome corruption in the country. Cabinet Secretary for National Treasury Henry Rotich will lead the team.

“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 the President after listening to views and several proposals by members of Kepsa whom he had earlier asked to be open and frank.

The President said graft has created the perception that Kenya is irredeemably corrupt.

“We need to take this issue of corruption very seriously .We need to change the perception that Kenya is the most corrupt country,” he said.

The President said the issue of graft was not about any individuals but about reclaiming the reputation and integrity of the country.

“It is about our future as a country, our dignity and integrity need to be protected and preserved,” he added

The President said corruption is frustrating many initiatives of the government.

EACC CEO Halake Waqo had earlier given a brief about the status of corruption in the country reporting that 70 per cent of graft was in areas of procurement while 20 per cent was over bribery issues.

He said for the first time, a total of 286 corruption related cases were being handled by the courts —the largest number ever, and a clear sign that the battle against corruption was enhanced.

“This shows we are working although the adjudication process is still slow on matters corruption”, said Waqo who also raised concerns over low conviction rates, lenient sentencing and lower level fines whereas the law has option of an upwards of Sh 800,000, seven years in jail or both on conviction of offenders.

Waqo also raised concerns that the law currently only punishes public servants yet the private sector was a key driver to corruption.

He was also concerned that corruption offenders “ have deep pockets” and hire the best legal minds to represent them as compared to state prosecutors.

Moving forward, the EACC will hire the best investigators and also put legal measures in place for asset recovery, locally and all those stashed abroad by liaising with foreign governments.

KEPSA leaders including chairman Dennis Awori and CEO Carole Kariuki promised that the private sector was committed to partner with the government to tame corruption.

Leader of Majority Aden Duale raised a red flag when he accused the private sector of being the greatest perpetrators of in graft parliament by paying MPs and bribing respective committee members to pass petitions in which they had interest.

He gave the example of the Excise Duty Bill where some Kepsa members reportedly spent more than 100 million shillings to influence committee members.

Duale said the issue of corruption is now being used to fight the president adding there is need to fast-track a new anti-bribery bill developed by the private sector, and which ensures that both the private sector and culpable government officials are punished if found guilty of the vice.

Duale further accused the judiciary of being the perpetrator of the corruption in Kenya adding there is need to audit the investigators in the Office of the DPP.

Besides corruption, the Kepsa meeting also discussed the improved ease of doing business in Kenya and favorable ratings by international agencies including the World Bank, entrepreneurship and the new legislations related to companies.

The meeting underlined the urgency to come up with measures to promote the manufacturing of affordable products including clothing to check on the importation of cheap ones and counterfeits.

The leather industry was given special attention where the President challenged the private sector to do whatever it takes to ensure Kenya produces finishes goods instead to having to import shoes and military boots from other countries.

He said the government is ready to provide favorable incentives to investors interested to put their money in this sector. — NNN-KBC