BY SAMUEL KIMEU
The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) have announced that three out of five Anglo Leasing cases are ready for prosecution.
This follows an evaluation of the case files by a joint technical team of officers from the two institutions. The team is to finalise the three files for submission to the Director of Public Prosecutions in the coming week.
It is 11 years since the scandal involving 18 contracts awarded by the Kenyan Government for acquisition of security related goods and services burst into the limelight. Kenyans have been treated to fruitless investigations since.
The back and forth between the then Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (predecessor of EACC) and the Office of the Attorney General (then also housing the public prosecutor) was a running motif in this case.
Despite the number of public officials implicated in the Sh56 billion scam, only one person was found guilty. Some public officials resigned ‘to pave way for investigations’, but most returned to office. It is well known that this conspiracy involved some of Kenya’s senior-most politicians, operating within the high ranks of past and present regimes, in the planning and cover-up.
The low degree of political will demonstrated in bringing this case to closure by unmasking and punishing the culprits was undesirable but not unanticipated.
The Anglo Leasing and Goldenberg scandals headline Kenya’s ‘wall of shame’. Anglo Leasing was the single largest instance of grand corruption that occurred under the watch of the NARC government and became the symbol of its lack of commitment to fight corruption shortly after taking power on a stated policy of ‘zero tolerance to corruption’.
The scandal now heavily hangs around the neck of the Jubilee government following payment of two claims worth Sh1.4 billion shillings to Anglo Leasing companies last year after settlements in Europe.
Public outrage stalked the government’s intention to pay the awards and penalties incurred on a non-performing contract; the payments were made nonetheless. While ordering the payments, President Uhuru Kenyatta directed fresh investigations into the scandal, and admitted that previous institutions on whose doorsteps this matter landed, failed.
The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and ODPP must this time round act with resolve to pursue the cases against the suspects to be named to ensure justice for all Kenyans. It is hoped that investigations conducted locally and internationally have now yielded robust evidence that can sustain convictions in court.
The Office of the Attorney General had entered into an agreement for mutual legal assistance with Switzerland, and we hope that this support from overseas will further buttress the prosecution’s case. The prosecution team must be legally armed to tackle devices by suspects to manoeuvre the legal system; previous cases were botched by constitutional applications and other injunctions. We expect that EACC and the ODPP picked key learnings from previous investigation and prosecution processes that may be applied to ensure convictions this time.
The other important step towards realising long-deserved justice for Kenyans is asset recovery. The suspects’ assets should be frozen and recovery proceedings initiated. The government is not out of the woods with regard to last year’s Sh1.4 billion payments.
Many Kenyans believe this payment, like many others relating to Anglo Leasing, was unjustified and look forward to full recovery. Asset recovery is thus fundamental in reclaiming public funds lost in these deals. Kenyans must get restitution.
Corruption scandals such as Anglo Leasing only serve to erode public confidence in the government especially when no action is seen to be taken against public officers, other individuals and entities involved. Successful prosecution of this case will help restore much needed public faith and goodwill in the fight against corruption.
The Anglo Leasing cases are like a rusty cog that clogs the justice system for corruption cases and refuses to turn. There is great premium to be gained in bringing justice to bear for the architects of this scam. This is the only way to unclog the cog and get the system moving to provide justice for other corruption scandals.
Until the Anglo Leasing architects and accomplices face the law, the government’s commitment towards fighting corruption will remain a song; long on words and short on action. Simply put, resolving the Anglo Leasing cases is likely to spur the fight against corruption in Kenya in ways not witnessed before.
(The writer is the Executive Director, Transparency International Kenya – Email: [email protected])