That corruption in Kenya has taken a turn for the worst could be an under-statement. Majority Kenyans appear to be resigning to fate of accepting corruption as a way of life.
Reality, however, is that Kenya’s corruption cancer has been building up over time. Little mitigation measures have been deployed to stem the graft scourge.
Top level pronouncements aimed at dwarfing corruption have remained but just that. Government is yet to walk the tough talk on the corruption fight.
But as inaction builds up, inefficient functioning of the economy, inflation and especially price hikes for key consumer goods have become commonplace.
Crime has risen. Shocking, as some may refuse to agree, majority Kenyans seem comparatively at ease with ‘civilian criminals’ than ‘criminals in uniform’ a.k.a police.
Cases abound of criminals by nightfall and police, at report desks, by day. When you have a country where police actively plan, facilitate and or execute crime – the essence of community policing vanishes and with it - trust in the criminal justice system equally wanes. Why?
It is police who, by law, investigate and charge criminals. When such criminals are police themselves and or are known to the police, evidence would be severely compromised. The public won’t share intelligence information.
But as corruption soars, so the fight against poverty and crime fail miserably. When we don’t fight corruption, we entrench poverty, more crime, leading to no development, no accountability and shrinking democratic space.
We must take lessons from Singaporean Lee Kuan Yew, who together with his party "People's Action" became the symbol of the fight against corruption. Their slogan? "You want to fight corruption? Then, be ready to send to jail your friends and relatives".
This is exactly the point from which President Kenyatta needs to reboot his strategy. He has little time. He needs to shelve the unsupported talk of “Big Four Agenda” and take up the fight against corruption as the only legacy agenda.
His predecessor Mwai Kibaki is remembered for infrastructure and free primary education. Kibaki never pronounced his priority agenda. He worked on them.
With failing criminal justice system, thanks to high level corruption and weak institutions, Kenyans can only expect corruption to get worse especially if the President does not change his tack.
Its time President Kenyatta stopped talking on corruption. He must act. Whether his friends or kin, he must send the corrupt ones to jail. He must start from the top.
Four things need to be done;
First, he needs to restructure and make changes at the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC). He must come to terms with the fact that the Reverend Eliud Wabukala team has failed him.
Beyond that, he needs to offer the EACC enabling legislative and administrative powers that can check DPP and also have DPP check EACC on performance.
President Kenyatta needs to strip the unwritten immunity from senior government officials and their immediate families on transparency and accountability.
Agents of EACC must have, for instance, the right to routinely check bank accounts, property, not only belonging to senior officials, but also their children, wives, relatives and even close friends.
President Kenyatta must make lifestyle audit work. If junior government officers live beyond their means, EACC must commence investigations. EACC must stop entrenched culture of kickbacks and bribes from higher echelons of power ought to be considered.
We need to encourage Kenyans to account for what they own – at any time – all the time. Meaning, public officials must not only make regular declaration of their wealth but such declaration should be accessible to the public online.
If you want privacy, then avoid public service – it should be that simple. And if you can’t account for what you own – directly and indirectly – the law needs to grant EACC the right to automatically confiscate any income derived from corrupt actions.
We must also enhance the penalty on convicted crime – fines, jail terms and mandatory repossession of the empires of the corrupt. Perjury or introduction of misleading.
Second, there should be no compromise. Top government officials being paid by contractors and tenderpreneurs and or influencing businesses and appointments in their respective dockets need to be dealt like any other criminal. If a senior government official must be produced in Court, on lawful orders, there should be no compromise – police must comply.
People must be made to live within your means. Any reward received by an official from someone seeking contact with the government, need to be considered a bribe, until proven otherwise. This will shift the burden of proving one's innocence to the governmental official who has to convince the court that whatever is received is not meant to influence decisions.
Third, President Kenyatta need to right-size the public service and offer high salary as some form of guarantee of integrity. Civil servants should be paid high salaries wages because they deserve it, representing a decent and honest government. If they are underpaid, they may be tempted to engage in corrupt practices. Higher salaries will also attract the best specialists.
Fourth, President Kenyatta ought to support an independent, objective mainstream media, so they can expose all forms of corruption – without fear or favour. In any case institutions like EACC are known to only prioritize investigations on graft matters that they are exposed by the media.