At first, the critics claimed it was all talk.
When Uhuru Kenyatta, soon after being sworn-in for his second term, announced that a central focus of his final five-year term in office would be the fight against corruption, many were sceptical. They didn’t notice the subtle change in his rhetoric or the steely look in his eyes when he said that “A nation whose moral fibre is broken becomes a weak nation in all respects, we must reclaim a true sense of responsibility over our actions.”
Of course, one can understand the scepticism of some. After all, in his first term Uhuru also talked of the evils of corruption and the necessity to destroy it.
But this time, the flowery rhetoric was quickly backed up by action. After being accused of talking tough on corruption, this time Uhuru was determined to walk the talk.
He refreshed and revamped the tired and failing anti-corruption bodies, putting in place new leadership and giving them a new energy and new purpose. Crucially, he established a Multi-Agency Task Team (MATT), reporting directly to him, tasked with uncovering the portfolios of corrupt officials.
The result has been a spate of arrests. Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong and nine of his colleagues have been charged with stealing millions in public funds. Fifty officials were arrested and charged for the NYS scandal that resulted in a missing Sh468 million. And Ben Chumo, ex-Managing Director of Kenya Power, along with senior managers and directors have also been charged with the theft of a similar sum.
But this is not all. Aware that the existing legislative framework for fighting corruption was not sufficiently robust, he announced a raft of new measures to further tilt the playing field in favour of law enforcement and against corrupt individuals. These included the vetting of procurement heads, greater transparency in the publication and award of tenders, and polygraph tests for those involved.
Most significantly, he announced that he would be instituting lifestyle audits for all public officials, starting with himself and William Ruto. Cognisant of the loopholes many corrupt officials use to hide their wealth, Uhuru noted that, “We are aware some of these corrupt individuals have registered their wealth… in the names of their spouses and children. We will go for them also.”
He was also clear that he would not hesitate to send anyone found guilty of graft to prison, including governors, senior cabinet ministers or even his own brother, declaring the war against the theft of public resources as unstoppable.
Following these measures, even the critics were beginning to wake up to the fact that Uhuru’s anti-graft crusade is for real.
But Uhuru isn’t finished yet. On Friday 20th July, in an address to all government accounting officers in Nairobi, he revealed the latest tool in this battle in the form of a directive to freeze all new government projects until the ongoing ones are completed. This will serve to prevent the wastage of our scarce resources and eradicate the wasteful habit of government agencies abandoning incomplete projects when the going gets tough. Crucially, this freeze will limit the opportunities for graft and abuse of office.
The context of this measure is a broader push at encouraging personal responsibility in the preservation of government funds. Back in December, Uhuru said that “It is necessary for all of us, for the sake of our country, to become champions of good governance and transparency in all our dealings,” and this is what he meant. By informing the assembled Principal Secretaries, heads of parastatals and chairpersons of parastatal boards, that they were being tasked with protecting the public purse, he was holding them personally responsible for the success of failure of this task.
Of course, there is much more to do. The evil of corruption that is so embedded in all facets our society cannot be defeated in a short period of time. It is a process. As citizens, all we want to see is the political will and commitment to addressing it, brave and decisive actions against the guilty, and most of all, progress.
In the second Uhuru government, even the critics must recognise that we are seeing all this and more.
It is becoming harder and harder to deny that Uhuru means business!
(Korere is the Laikipia North MP)