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Media Council of Kenya Deputy Chief Executive Officer Victor Bwire. Photo/ FILE

Fifth Estate

Empty talk and politics weakest link in the war on corruption

The current levels of corruption and related perception of plundering of public resources by combined forces of people in public and private agencies in Kenya need a different approach of handling that goes beyond the investigating, intelligence and prosecuting agencies. We need an out of routine approach, quick and politically supported intervention targeting the disruption of the criminal network that will cause panic and a temporary ceasefire in stealing.

And by the way, even the private sector and civil society are reeling under corruption. Very many companies in Kenya have subscribed to the United Nations efforts, spearheaded by the UN Global Compact launched in 1999, which shows that corruption is not a preserve of those in the public sector. The UN Global Compact is a social contract in which companies are asked to make an active commitment in their own activities and those of their business partners to live up to the nine principles on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), on the core conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and on Agenda 21 from the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

The various access to information and accountability mechanisms need to get the necessary political push, so that once the information is shared, including through the courts, a national name and shame process is tied to the prosecution process. We need accurate information to do this, and if the relevant political leaders can demand and get this information, and share with Kenyans, that will be a major achievement. In this era of the Constitutional requirements of Articles 33, 34 and 35, information sharing, and for this matter credible and factual information released in a timely manner is central to managers including those in Government. The Government of Kenya is a signatory to the Open Government Partnership and has many times indicated its commitment to open governance and adhering to the Constitution.

Corruption has become a way of life in the country, and dealing with it requires a radical different approach involving citizens, people from outside government, regional and international players, and a very professional media that reports accurately and independently.  It is hurting and causing trauma to those reading and hearing the amounts of money that are reported accurately or being created in the minds of Kenyans.  Our families, children, friends and associates are not concerned about the source of your sudden wealth they are more interested in enjoying it. Political parties, gated neighborhoods and golf clubs are waiting for the new kids on the block with unlimited monies to recruit as their members and care less where the money came from. The social control mechanisms for dealing with the greedy amongst us have broken and people now cheer those from their tribe who steal, even if they won’t get a piece.

The real plundering of public resources and the perception created around it shows that corruption in Kenya has reached a level that is beyond the routine politicization investigation and prosecution of the issues. Its serious international crime network that have permeated the country’s nerve center, extending to terrorist financing, money laundering, human trafficking, tax evasion and illicit financial flows that require more coordination and commitment by the investigating, intelligence and prosecuting agencies imaging.  Not sure how the multi-agency team on corruption is fairing on.

Kenya, like the rest of the countries in the region, has enacted several laws and are implementing interventions to deal with the ever-growing threat of illicit financial flows that have wreaked havoc on not only their tax collection efforts but have spurred unrivaled corruption levels in the region. We have laws on corruption, bribery, counter-terrorism, anti-money laundering, human trafficking and access to information in the country, but where we have reached, we need to build the capacity of and support media to do more exposes and follow these illicit money trails. An audit of the effectiveness and applicability of these laws, and what has been achieved through their implication is necessary. We have public procurement portals, open governance portals, executive orders directing disclosure of information on certain projects but nobody seems to care. It is Impunity on another level.

Corruption discourages the morale to work or invest in genuine work but more importantly, with the politicization of the corruption business, the war to deal with loses credibility and the seriousness it deserves. It is difficult to comprehend the amount of money plundered, with the current lack of access to accurate information on the issues, impunity by those expected to serve the public and apparent delusion by Kenyans.

Players in the Governance sector need to invest more in putting in place mechanisms and initiatives aimed at dealing firmly with corruption through accountability and transparency carters. The mechanisms put in place to deal with corruption in the sector are equally important in the fight against corruption in Kenya. Public agencies and the media need to lead the efforts to re-engineer the fight against corruption in the region.

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The existing right to information framework should enable citizens including the media to demand information from companies that are doing business of public nature or with the government to any suspicious transaction, or whenever mentioned in corrupt deals. The Corporate world must come together and show commitment to fighting corruption and punishing those from their ilk who do corrupt business with the government. The code for doing ethical business must be upheld. Banks must play their role in the anti-corruption business.

Allow professional and competent bodies that are mandated by law to lead in some of the efforts on corruption and do the oversight.

The provision of information by the Government is a critical aspect of governance and is more than just media or public relations.  Failure by government agencies to provide information even directed by the President is a major concern. Big Government projects including the big four agenda and the various national security-related interventions have shown one thing in common: We need a coordinated government response and information sharing strategy, and especially in this era of misinformation and propaganda.

The Writer is the Deputy CEO and Head of Programs at the Media Council of Kenya.

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