CHAPTER 8: CORRUPTION
Corruption is the biggest impediment to the development of any nation. By its very definition, it bestows an undeserved advantage upon one individual to the detriment of many others. Nothing puts the scissors to the social fabric like the notion that no matter how hard you work there is a ceiling to just how lofty your ambitions are tailored to reach.
The perception of a rigged system is more limpid today than at any other time in history. Now picture this, at least in a way not to cast aspersions on any individuals’ characters. One man; a professional no doubt, secured employment almost immediately after graduation at Coca-Cola East Africa Limited. Shortly after, he resigns and the next day is tapped by Africa Online Group as a Marketing Manager. He soon becomes disenfranchised with the post and leaves in a huff but is promptly picked up by Kenya Breweries Limited as a Sales Operations Manager. Ay pronto, he throws in the towel only to be enlisted by Haco Industries as Managing Director, staying a while longer here before predictably leaping onto the next horse – Vivo Energy, as Country CEO. Gun drama with an errant distributor; notwithstanding, civic duty beckons as he leaves the post for the high calling of Deputy Governor of the County hosting the Capital City – an unequivocally high honour. He throws his toys out of the pram only five months later, when square ideological pegs are deemed impossible to fit into round slots, resigning only to land on the lap of Equity Bank as Chief Commercial Officer, getting promoted to Managing Director in 3 months’ time. This job denies him the intellectual stimulus he yearns for and he lurches back to Vivo Energy where the Executive VP for African sales position was being kept warm for him. So now after the agonizing throes of a seven-figure salary, he’s back at Equity Bank as Chief Commercial Officer again!
Ladies and gentlemen, this may sound like the legendary tale of Simon Makonde but is the true story of one well-heeled professional’s career in Kenya. Though all men were created equal, some are decidedly more equal than others! Within the same period, many a graduate from the same university, with similar credentials have walked their shoes worn without even finding an entry-level position in the first company the aforementioned individual worked in! How are you to convince anybody that the terrain of success is not tilted in favour of a select few to the despondency of many of their contemporaries? Cronyism and Corruption are highly regarded in modern-day Kenya as meritocracy is relegated to the annals of a dipsomaniac’s recollections. This in due course will prove an Achilles-heel in our attainment of cohesion and security.
So audacious is the abuse of public trust in Kenya today, that thieves are exalted and paraded on pedestals, called even at the tabernacles of our Centres for Spiritual Nourishment to share their wisdom with the faithful; all the while, the incorruptible that are in actual sense the prudent ones are lampooned for letting their chance to ‘eat’ pass them by! It’s a crying shame that many of our children now experience the virtue of honesty as an attenuated and diminishing principle of life so that with every succeeding generation smut, grime and mediocrity are raised as the standard-bearer while honour is virtually relegated to pig-swill! Abuse of office by leaders at every level is the prime-mover in the depreciation of the moral conduct of our society. Since the promulgation of our newly-minted constitution in 2010, attempts to enact legislation to the strictures that are enshrined in Chapter 6 of our constitution [Leadership & Integrity] against corruption have come a cropper. The main culprits being the political and business class that seek personal aggrandizement by fiddling with the procedure for public expenditure. The lure of unmerited financial gain through holding public office is so ingrained that it often results in negative ethnicization and militarization of political contests. Partaking in corruption panders to the Lowest Common denominator where the unethical, unscrupulous and unqualified are all adjudged suitable for the task. This ultimately kills any drive towards national prosperity, enterprise, morale and most deleterious; the continuity of our fledgling nation. This flaw is evinced in every sector of life be it political, executive, legislative or even cultural.
The most essential tool to combat corruption is political will. Indeed, H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta has been within an inch of performing histrionics while issuing firm directives aimed at deterrence and punishment of corruption but inevitably the vice fights back because it has the most potent weapon – Money. Throw lucre at any problem and most likely it disappears. Today for a small pecuniary contribution, even religious leaders have been enlisted as battering rams to defend the corrupt; indeed a great stain on the vestments of these ostensibly ‘men of the cloth.’
As per the strictures of Jeremiah 5:31 – “The prophets now prophesy falsely and the priests rule by their own authority. My people love it like this. But what will they do at the end of it all?”
But far be it from anybody rendering observance to my sermon! The corrupt ultimately form cartels that are merely cabals to safeguard their nefarious interests. Subsequently, a government that can be honest enough to win the trust of the citizens, investors and fair-minded stakeholders is roiled by such characters. The cartels block, distort, redirect service provision, influence policymaking, implementation, budgeting, procurement, regulation and oversight. Our systemic tolerance for gatekeepers and rent-seekers in public service is a major catalyst for corruption.
As opposed to the predictable nous of trailing perpetrators of corruption after the deed is done, we should prioritize measures aimed at prevention. Conscript managers with a sound record of effective and accountable management. We need to build systems that facilitate, promote ethical conduct and responsibility in resource utilization. Deterrence of corruption can be effected by spot-checks or sting operations. The incentive for promotion to higher office must forthwith entail adherence to the rules of professional conduct and ethics among the yardsticks for promotion.
Privatization of some government-owned entities engaged in business can reduce corruption, adding greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness to the enterprises. Kenya’s resources can for now be best protected by shrinking the footprint of government in appreciation of the sentiments captured proverbially as, “Everybody’s business is nobody’s business” which is usually the case in civil service.
Major Recommendations in this regard include:
(a) Freeing Kenya from Cartel Capture – First in the raft of measures is to undertake an intelligence-based review of the hold on critical economic aspects.
Banking executives engaged in money laundering should be given hefty fines to pay or jailed for long periods. Withdrawal of operating licenses should be invoked for repeat-offender institutions or individuals. Additionally, we should punish the co-conspirators in tax-evasion and money laundering in the private sector. We can no longer condone a culture where ill-gotten wealth gets into banks and apparently nobody knows how it happened and who it belongs to in this area of dynamic use of Information Technology and Surveillance.
Sting operations should now be used for anti-corruption targets i.e. lawyers, judges and legislators in difficult to prosecute cases so as to actually get the evidence requisite for prosecution.
A putrid case is now active in our courts of law where the aura of judicial interference cannot be discounted. Here, a defendant accused of a heinous crime is being coached by a highly-ranked Officer of the Court on mechanisms of subverting the course of justice with intercepted correspondence painting a logical perception that the female defendant is paying for these ‘coaching’ services by licentious currency. To add to this quandary, the presiding judge and the defendant’s counsel have connubial ties which raises the spectre of the miscarriage of justice just a notch higher! Apparently Lady Justice as pertains to the Kenyan scene has too many functional neural pathways to her visual cortex to ever be reckoned as blind!
A thorough audit of the negative legal, policy & administrative incentives in public service is much needed. The findings should be crafted into policy initiatives and enforced. Adjunct to custodial sentences, the delinquents engaging in economic crimes should be fined punitively with the proceeds being used for reparation to the aggrieved Kenyans.
(b) Incentives for Whistleblowing – Material incentives shall henceforth be provided for information leading to the successful seizure and/or prosecution for corruption-related crimes. A 5% share of the recovered proceeds will be the spoils for whistleblowers. This should be done tactically in order not to compromise the safety and survival of our esteemed whistleblower.
Treatment of whistleblowers has been under the spotlight recently after an employee of our national carrier who covertly filmed and shared on Social Media the footage of a plane carrying 239 passengers of Chinese extraction, merely having a red carpet rolled out for them in antipathy to the fact that they evinced from the same country of origin as the novel COVID-19 virus that is ravaging the globe at the present moment. The young man had to all intents and purposes been accorded the distinction of a ‘summary dismissal’ for gross misconduct in appreciation of his act of patriotism and unparalleled valour! Security of safety installations was invoked in his unprocedural suspension, a position bolstered by the Cabinet Secretary for Transport but was mercifully saved when public hue and cry intervened and following litigation, the distinguished Kenyan kept his job. Such an unsightly conundrum is what this constitutional amendment seeks to annihilate.
(c) Prevention and deterrence by widespread ethics awareness and assessment of performance – From a young age we need students tutored on ethics.
Review Cabinet and principal Secretaries’ performance assessment framework to incorporate the anti-corruption initiative.
Contracts for senior appointees should have practical performance benchmarks with rules for layoffs on failure to perform, reviewed biannually. Lay-off all appointees implicated in corruption.
(d) Public Officers have no business engaging in commerce with Government – This will exorcise the phantom of conflict of interest that is rife in Civil service as currently constituted. This is extended to spouses, common-law partners, parents and close family members of the officer currying favour with the respective state office.
Abdication of duty during regular working hours will become antiquated as officers will be required to obtain prior permission from their upline in the Ministry, Department or State Agency.
An Officer will be obliged to submit written notification to their superior of interests external to his employment there, which could potentially constitute conflict of interest. This is extended to those representing the government on Boards of Private companies.
(e) Wealth Declaration Forms will be publicized – This will be done for leadership and senior management cadre including National & County Government Executives. A written narrative on how wealth of above Kshs. 50 million was obtained will be available to the multitudes. These will be filled and made available to the websites of the respective service commissions. This will not be limited to but inclusive of shareholding, remuneration, family & business trusts, real estate, state contracts, directorships, partnerships, liabilities, bonds, investments and savings.
The era of undocumented and nebulous stories of individuals in government ostensibly ‘selling chicken’ while becoming overnight billionaires with enough money to dole out at fundraisings and church gatherings perpetually without exhaustion; as coincidentally, the state loses a third of its revenue earnings to faceless myrmidons annually is drawing to a close.
(f) Resignation – This means taking responsibility for failures, negligence or bog-standard actions that precipitate calamitous consequences by vacating their positions amicably. This will infuse honour back to public service.
(g) Digitization – Kenya will become 100% e-services compliant by digitizing all Government services, processes, payments and record-keeping. Tamper-proof the systems keeping a keen eye on the IFMIS system that is now deemed too vulnerable to misuse and backdoor access to steal our national revenue.
(h) Reduce the moral jeopardy of those mismanaging government-owned entities in anticipation of state bailouts – Strengthen the hand of the Controller of Budget to detect and respond in timely fashion to misappropriation, wastage and malfeasance.
Enact the Parastatal Reform Bill to renew focus on core business.
Rationalize all state-owned enterprises and enact the bill to bring expenditure under control with common-user benchmarks, independent valuations of projects and value for money audits on completed projects.
(i) Increase Public Confidence in the Judiciary – Respect for the principle of separation of powers, independence and accountability to the sovereignty – The People of Kenya.
Special magistrates to deal with high-profile heinous crimes like corruption, narcopreneurship and terrorism.
Empower JSC to discipline judges appropriately concomitant with their errors.
Make the office of the Ombudsman (Commission on Administrative on Justice) more responsive to the public and create civic awareness on its existence.
CHAPTER 9: DEVOLUTION
At the heart and soul of devolution is the decentralization of power that results in the facilitation of service delivery across the country. The major devolved unit is the County that is headed by a Governor. The minor units within are called Wards each represented by a Member of the County Assembly. The scorecard from 2010 to now paints a rosy picture as previously underdeveloped regions are now getting opened up and almost each hamlet has an access road. However, devolution is still hampered by a few challenges that if left unaddressed threaten to derail it completely. It is now facing a critical political and economic sustainability conundrum that it must pass. Oversight to forestall the eventuality of revenue loss through corruption is a crucial tenet of these discussions. Transparency, accountability and an appeal system for projects that have been shoddily executed are just but a microcosm of the things Kenyans crave for. Duplication of roles is a major issue that hamstrings the devolved units as it creates confusion when similar roles are performed by both the County and National Government. On issues of planning, public participation and budgeting; many Kenyans want a front-row seat. But a worrying development is the county government falling prey to the same issues that made governance a nightmare when it was centralized. Corruption, Nepotism, favouritism, ethnic antagonism, bigotry, bloated workforces, delays in payment, marginalization of minorities, mismatched priorities, delays in decision making, inefficiency, ineffective modalities of service delivery and skewed resource allocation. The main thread of the public participation taskforce was the fact that County governments asked for their fiscal allocation of the national revenue to be raised from 35% to 50%.
Among the thorny issues presented to the BBI Taskforce on devolution revolved around:
- Revenue share between the two tiers of Government.
- Resolving exclusivity and marginalization in the Counties.
- Improving effectiveness in execution of their mandates.
- Enhancing economic growth in Counties.
As it currently stands the aggregate minimum transfer of funds to counties is 15% of centrally collected revenues. The 35% figure will have to be increased over time to reach the required 50%.
A worrisome trend that has become a feature of the County government is the exclusion that was previously faced in the national government. Ethnic minorities bear the brunt of this, when those perceived as not part of the winning coalition are often excluded wholesale in antipathy to the strictures of Article 174(e) of the Constitution. Turning a blind eye to merit and inclusivity as opposed to favouritsm when hiring is a slow-puncture on the wheels of devolution. The counties are in need of an independent County Service Board.
There is no option other than enhancing economic growth in our Counties; otherwise, the devolution experiment will flounder and even reverse. Counties are urged to be more competitive to attract more investment opportunities from merchants outside their counties. At the core of this is for County Government regulation and revenue collection to promote incentives for investment and innovation. Every county is enthused to develop an Entrepreneurship and Investment code that is predictable and effective. Red tape must be kept to a minimum for improved competitive edge. Procurement of goods must be done in factoring in well laid down procurement Laws and best practices. Local leaders are purveyors of outright impunity plagued by patronage, perpetual self-seeking & nepotism. Also noted was the inability of counties to mobilize their own domestic resources and properly account for those they receive.
Major Recommendations with regards to devolution include:
1.) Retain the 47 Counties and support the voluntary formation of regional economic blocs – This will create better value for money and will be effective in mobilizing funds for shared development and ultimately prosperity. In one way or another, this will enable more funds to be raised for a development kitty all the while leaving aside the little tranche retained for the recurrent expenditure and administrative budget.
2.) Increase the resources to counties from current levels to 35% and eventually 50% of last audited accounts – Money should be assigned respective to actual functions as opposed to just having a lump sum for the county. Costing of National and County functions will be vital in this regard. This should be done with a keen eye on the distances between the County centre and its extremities as opposed to the general size of the county. It should target key areas, some the major economic activity in the ambient like agriculture, healthcare and rapid urbanization. Counties in Kenya vary meteorically in physical size. For instance, Vihiga County is incomparable in land area terms with say Turkana or Isiolo counties. Population is a totally different issue.
State institutions carrying out County functions should be audited and if found wanting, wound up or restructured. This is to be done in synchrony with the completed Parastatal Reform policy.
The allocation of revenue should be simplified for the populace, guided by equality, equity and special needs concurrently.
Have Ward representatives oversight bursary funds only, ensuring their influence does not extend to the CDF.
Revenue bump-up will forthwith be guided by a revenue allocation formula informed by population, urgent needs (health, agriculture), education needs (ECD). Hitherto marginalized regions should be uplifted via an equalization fund for a period.
Commission for Revenue Allocation must assess county collections and factor them into the annual allocation. A County Integrated Development Plan should be linked to a transparent assessment of the development needs of each ward.
Cut taxes in relation to Auditor General Reports. Until at such a time accountability can be guaranteed it will be foolhardy to increase it for the hoi-polloi only to lose it in corruption scams.
3.) Improvements to the County Executive – Major one is to have a running mate of the opposite gender.
To forever seal the loopholes for the propensity of catabasis back to the madness witnessed in Nairobi under Governor Mike Sonko, if a vacancy for any given reason occurs in the Deputy Governor’s office, and the Governor fails to name a replacement within 90 days, one will be nominated by the County Speaker with approval of the Assembly.
Merit and inclusivity should once again become the yardstick by which human resource is hired at the County offices. An independent County Public Service Board will be needed for recruitment, setting remuneration, ensuring inclusivity and continuous development of the human resource with regards to skills and capabilities.
4.) The Healthcare Function – Kenyans deserve better healthcare to be prosperous and productive.
A Health Service Commission should be created by the county to recruit medical staff.
Health remains a devolved function with funds following functions. Focus should be put on Preventive and primary care.
NHIF Administrative costs should be pegged at between 5-10% through use of technology to engender integrity. We must live in cognizance that the Hippocratic Oath is not an assurance of morality!
Create a Patients’ Bill of Rights Stating:
- Patients will not be extorted by taking advantage of their vulnerability.
- An end to forceful detention.
- Consequences for a physician who commits misdiagnosis.
- The obligation of health facilities to stabilize emergency cases.
- Politeness and consideration from medical practitioners.
5.) County Expenditure – Supervision of spending, investment and recruitment is failing leading to corruption compromising the benefits contemplated. Assign more funds to development.
Peg ratio of Development spending to Recurrent Expenditure at 70:30.
Insulate County budgetary processes from arbitrary or politically-motivated interference by County Executives.
Limit county employees by providing a nationwide ratio, as a ceiling between no. of employees and the County Population. Fix a maximum number to the Ministries a Governor can create.
Reduce functional duplications between National and County Government. The same goes for tax collection.
End the asininity of abandoning projects mid-stream merely as a result of regime change. A new governor will henceforth be obligated to provide a list of incomplete projects and a plan for completion. Legitimate cause will be demanded from an incoming governor in case he sees no feasibility in continuing an already commenced project.
Extra scrutiny for projects initiated in the final year of an electoral cycle from Controller of Budget, County Assembly, Senate and all bodies tasked with oversight.
Devolution of the Auditor General’s office.
Commission on Revenue Allocation should alter its formula with regards to allocating funds to marginalized regions targeting Wards.
Kenya Bureau of Statistics to provide an objective and localized well-being, human security & environmental sustainability indices to measure relative performances among the Counties, Wards and Nation.
6.) County must bake the economic pie – Focus on competitiveness to attract investment from outside the county and abroad.
Biashara Mashinani initiatives to support local groups to develop business through partnerships. Facilitate the initiation of small businesses so that they navigate regulations and bureaucracy to make eventually produced goods cheaper. An Entrepreneurship and Investment code needed too and it should be productive and efficient.
Reduce Red tape to a bare minimum to generate revenue.
7.) Enhance Cohesion in Counties – Strengthen dialogue and integration of communities within the counties, especially the multi-ethnic ones, creating a space at the table for the minorities.
Enhance transparency by public participation in consort with the Public Rapporteur’s office. One-day forums will be held periodically in this regard.
Make use of elders to strengthen cohesion and mediate conflicts.
Create cultural awareness and program the younger members of society to respect each other.
Integrate the learning process in hosted schools to the ways of the home county.
Engage in shared projects and create fora where dialogues on Truth, Justice and Reconciliation in communities that have had histories of conflict.