Corruption in public office: Kenya has lost its moral compass


The last one week has been very eventful for Kenya in relation to values and principles of governance. The former Chairperson of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, Mumo Matemu finally resigned to avoid facing a tribunal which had been appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta to probe allegations of incompetence and violation of the constitution against him and his deputy Irene Keino who had resigned earlier.

In the same week the president signed into law the Public Service (Values and Principles) Act, 2015. The Act seeks to instil professionalism, efficiency, accountability, fairness, competitiveness and ethnic diversity in public service inter alia. The president also warned that he would take unspecified action against Principal Secretaries whose ministries fail to adopt and implement the e-procurement system within the next seven days. The system is expected to seal procedural lapses and minimize avenues for corruption in tendering. The president in tandem exhibited public fury over the hiring of five buses by the Kenya Airports Authority at the cost of Sh11 million per month.

However the shocker came when Deputy President William Ruto and Official Opposition leader Raila Odinga were concurrently mentioned over alleged corruption; fraud, theft and embezzlement of public funds. A former aide to Raila alleged that the Deputy President was, through proxy, involved in an irregular deal relating to the proposed expansion of Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret. Subsequently the two leaders openly and unashamedly traded accusations over corruption as if they were competing to determine who is or who has the most corrupt hirelings (aides). It was very depressing to see commentators in social and mainstream media cheering their preferred leader depending on their ethnicity or political persuasion. Even highly educated analysts were acting like morons instead of asking hard questions and demanding accountability from the two.

A visitor to Kenya would have been forgiven to think that we are cursed lot. In civilized societies people do not take sides on a grave issue such as corruption based on their ethnicity and political preference. Alexis de Toqueville, a French philosopher wrote that “in a democracy, people get the government (leaders) they deserve” It is quite obvious that ordinary citizens are the ones inadvertently perpetuating impunity; corruption and crime in Kenya by explicitly cheering politicians who are accused of corruption. It is the same people who elect these leaders into high office but later complain when government is unable to provide basic services. It is like a shepherd placing a carnivore in charge of his herd and then expecting the flock to prosper!

Our value system is the very reason politicians see no evil, hear no evil; speak no evil. Kenya is a society where citizens love money, drunkenness and unbridled fun more than life. For money, many a Kenyan will readily kill while university and college students see no qualms having sex with people old enough to be their ancestors or even animals! Young people loot from accident victims instead of offering assistance while others join terrorist groups and criminal gangs for money. When a lorry carrying petroleum or beer overturns, people loot or engage in drinking binges, the imminent danger notwithstanding. It is educated Kenyans with advanced college degrees who manipulate financial systems in government and the private sector to make money at any cost. This “educated” group is also incorrigibly tribal and will purposely propagate ethnic hate and mobilise voters to elect politicians along tribal lines. When a society adores money and wealth in such a fashion a lot of things are bound to go wrong and such a society has certainly lost its moral compass.

To fight corruption, Kenya requires much more than legislative instruments and statutory bodies. A revolution of the entire social, economic and political governance system is required. Civic educators should focus on making voters know that democracy is not synonymous with the right to elect criminals. We must find a way of making corruption painful and costly; socially, economically and politically. Public officers who are mentioned in corruption should not just step aside but must have their bank accounts frozen and properties placed under caveat. Only such stringent measures can convey the message that public office is about service, not making money.

(The writer is an advocate and chairman of the Kenya Institute of Forensic Auditors)

Twitter: @CaptWanderiCFE

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