You must make tough choices to slay the dragon of corruption, experts tell Uhuru

Saturday February 27 2016

President Uhuru Kenyatta with Israel President Reuven Rivlin and Mrs Nechama Rivlin at their residence in Jerusalem, Israel, for a State dinner. President Kenyatta must solve the corruption menace. PHOTO | PSCU

President Uhuru Kenyatta with Israel President Reuven Rivlin and Mrs Nechama Rivlin at their residence in Jerusalem, Israel, for a State dinner. President Kenyatta must solve the corruption menace. PHOTO | PSCU 

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On his three-day visit to the holy land of Israel this week, President Uhuru Kenyatta made the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem one of his stops.

This 18-metre tall behemoth, built around a temple in the times of King Solomon, is one of the holiest sites for three religions that originated in the Middle East — Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

It is so called because pilgrims visit it to wail about their problems and sometimes place written prayers in the cracked joints of its huge stones in the believe that God will answer their prayers.
Perhaps it is from the spiritual inspiration he felt from his pilgrimage that the President went to a meeting of Kenyans in Israel and lamented about the corruption of his compatriots that now threatens his administration.

On the day after the President said, during a visit to Israel, Kenyans were ‘‘expert thieves’’ who were frustrating his efforts to fulfil his election pledges, experts told him to make tough decisions to fight sleaze in his administration.

Some of the decisions may upset his allies in the ruling coalition.

Back home, the President had left a swirling storm on the theft of millions, perhaps billions of shillings, by members of his government from the National Youth Service.

The allegations and counter allegations, which have gripped the Jubilee Administration follow two affidavits — one by businesswoman Josphine Kabura and another by former Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru, once seen as the administration’s blue-eyed girl.

The former claimed that Ms Waiguru was the architect of the plots to siphon off hundreds of millions from the NYS which was under her charge, while Ms Waiguru on her part roped in Finance minister Henry Rotich, National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, Senate deputy Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen and Deputy President William Ruto’s aide Farouk Kibet.

The affidavits — statements sworn under oath and therefore solemn declarations — have brought out the rot in the high echelons of power, and the unholy alliance between these politicos and the conduits of corruption in the private sector.

There was also the uproar the President had caused when he declined to form a tribunal to investigate bribery allegations against Supreme Court judge Philip Tunoi, and then later agreed to do so.

On Friday, Mr Wachira Maina, a constitutional expert partly blamed this on bad advice to the president and claimed it was the doing of Attorney-General Githu Muigai.

Mr Maina said this had led many to believe the president was soft on corruption.

He said the flip flopping on the Tunoi case, coming so soon after fresh corruption allegations against Ms Waiguru gave the impression of a president averse to fighting graft, yet he has forcefully spoken about and staked his reputation on.

Dr David Ndii, an economic expert, said the revelations in the NYS affidavits seemed to suggest that the President was condoning corruption.

“There is a disturbing corollary to the Ms Waiguru scandal, this being that if both her and Kabura’s allegations are true, and they do look credible, the Jubilee administration has been covering up crimes.

How high does the cover up go?

He added: “On the Justice Tunoi case, we’ve been treated to yet another episode of presidential prevarication, giving lame excuses and finally attempting to wriggle out of forming a tribunal. Why?”

Political scientist Adams Oloo said that Jubilee was faced with two stark realities: Shake off the tag of protecting looters and face the Opposition on a fight against corruption platform or stick together and face the wrath of an angry, looted nation.

“At one point in time, the URP side that’s facing the chunk of the allegations will either be forced out or it will jump ship. But either way, Jubilee has a lot to answer to Kenyans and 2017 will be a very, very uphill task” he said.

Mr Maina said the President does not seem to realise that the buck stops with him and not those who work for him.

He needs to make tough decisions. “The President’s advisers made him look weak and indecisive,’’ he says adding that they should be sacked.

Prof Edward Kisiang’ani said the President’s credibility had suffered: “The first option is to ensure the coalition collapses and live with the consequences. He can tell the country we can’t work with corrupt people. It is wrought with risks, but it he can look for an alternative partner and hope Kenyans will reward him for the progressive choice,” argued Prof Kisiang’ani.

He said the other option would be to remain with Mr Ruto and persuade him to put up a show that they are fighting corruption.

“He can then hope that despite the mistakes they are making, the tribal arithmetic will yet again make them win.”

The sleaze may strengthen the opposition, especially Mr Raila Odinga, who has been the leader most associated with the fight on the NYS and Eurobond scandals.

The youth service enterprise was supposed to be a flagship of Uhuru’s administration. This was signalled by the amount of resources that the government allocated it.

In the Eurobond funds, Mr Rotich released information on how the Sh160 billion that remained after payment of the syndicated loan, had been allocated to various ministries.

Devolution, where NYS then fell, received Sh45 billion. The budget of the NYS itself nearly doubled from Sh13 billion to Sh25 billion. Dr Ndii warned then that this was a recipe for disaster.

“There is no organisation, other than a military going to war, that can effectively double its budget absorption capacity from one year to the next. If there is one thing I am certain CS Waiguru knows very well, it is the corruption risk that such a budget escalation entails. Power corrupts,’’ Dr Ndii wrote in the Saturday Nation.

It appears that with this kind of cash, the players that are now giving us the affidavits, went to work, devising creative ways of using the money.

Of course as Ms Waiguru says in her affidavit, these included inflating prices of supplies.

“If you get into the habit of splurging Sh50 million on impromptu gigs, on strategy at Sh8 million a bullet point and cornering the ndengu market at Sh25,000 a sack, you can burn any amount of cash,’’ Dr Ndii wrote.