Corruption compromising key gains of devolution

Sunday January 10 2016

Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission CEO Halakhe Wako. A recent report by the EACC shows that corruption is endemic in the counties. PHOTO | GERALD ANDERSON | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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As we take stock of the achievements of the Constitution we enacted five years ago, lack of a clear strategy and capacity to tackle corruption will put the Jubilee Government on the spotlight on devolution.

Although assessment rates devolution as one of the key pillars and successes of Jubilee, the government has not yet put sufficient mechanisms to protect public funds in the counties.

Ironically, most of the functions and funds have been hastily devolved since 2013 without the requisite structures to protect the public from corruption.

A recent report by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) shows that corruption is endemic in the counties.

The anti-graft agency claims that at least 28 county governments were involved in corruption, something that county governments are expected to vehemently deny.

In the first place, county leaders have never admitted that their governments suffer serious shortcomings on accountability.

The report details how public money was stolen through irregular deals and shady procurement.

More revealing is the latest Auditor-General’s report that exposed massive corruption and careless spending by the county governments, which disregarded clear and elaborate procurement rules.

The clamour for increased funding by the county governments is quite justifiable considering the huge responsibilities placed on their shoulders.

However, without commensurate levels of accountability and responsibility from the county leaders, the devolved funds will not serve the envisaged purposes.

The oversight bodies — parliamentary Public Accounts Committees, EACC, the Auditor- General’s office and the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions — have done a good job in exposing corruption but evidently they all look weak in moving beyond that point.

No serious high-level corruption case has been punished successfully by the successive governments.

It is this culture of impunity that we have now devolved, with far reaching consequences considering the inadequate capacity at the county level to tackle the vice.

Kenya is a rich country endowed with immense natural resources and a good human resource, rated among the best in Africa, but corruption is a major impediment to growth, as it destroys the economy, threatens stability and denies many people their rights.

Kenya witnessed the high cost of corruption during the Moi regime.

Having fixed the main institutions of governance with the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution and devolution, one wonders why it has been hard to mobilise political will, and deal with the minor administrative issues to tackle corruption.


There are quick wins that can be achieved.

The anti-corruption agency should move its services closer to the people and open centres in all the counties to make it easy for the public to report graft.

This will also assist in tackling corruption at the constituency level.

The Auditor-General’s office, which is inadequately funded, should also be allocated more resources.

This will enable it to not only audit the devolved funds by the national government but also revenue generated at the county level and how it is spent.

Although prosecution is supposed to ensure deterrence, it has not worked very well in this country.

Preventive measures such as educating people at the grassroots level on the negative impact of corruption and how they can play a vigilant role to safeguard their resources is a good starting point.

Unfortunately, this will require collaboration with civil society, which the same government has tried to annihilate since it came to power.

Integrating anti-corruption courses in the school curriculum is vital and may in the long term have significant gains.

Young people should be taught good morals and qualities of good leadership.

Today, corruption has become a way of life with almost every adult Kenyan having engaged in or witnessed its transaction.

The Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index has ranked Kenya poorly among the corrupt countries in the world and in 2014, Kenya took position 145 out of the 175 countries surveyed.

The government and the anti-corruption agencies must win back the much needed public support in the fight against corruption.

There are fears that the corruption incidents are expected to increase as we move towards elections.

The much-talked about goodwill by the President to fight corruption must not be watered down by the desire to prevent political fallout.

Mr Obonyo is the World Bank’s Africa Representative to the Global Coordination Board of Youth Network.

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