The revelations contained in the affidavit of one of the key suspects in the National Youth Service scandal — one Josephine Kabura Irungu — make for sensational reading.
Ms Kabura is not your ordinary hairdresser. The veracity of the claims she makes in the affidavit notwithstanding, hers is a sensational account on the exploits of a politically well-connected player working with friends in very high places.
She clearly had a very powerful political sponsor. Her narrative places you on a ringside seat from where you can see and observe the extent to which billions of shillings allocated to a well-meaning national project meant to improve the lives of slum dwellers was siphoned by well-connected tenderprenuers and their friends in high places.
It is a gripping tale about how corruption in Kenya produces instant corrupt millionaires who want to flaunt their loot — in purchasing goods of ostentation such as Range Rovers, Toyota Prados, and houses in the prestigious addresses of the capital city.
As you read the affidavit, you see a network of operatives sharing not only rewards but also risks, a tight-knit group with a high stake, not only in hiding corruption but also in freezing out critics.
What blows your mind are images of stacks of bank notes worth hundreds of millions of shillings being ferried in big bags and individuals routinely stacking tens of millions of corruptly acquired cash in their houses.
Going through the affidavit, you are left wondering how an ordinary hairdresser gathered so much political influence in a short time to occupy such a central place in a network of corrupt individuals.
Such was her influence in the network that you see her dictating terms, promiscuously dishing out backhanders and kickbacks on behalf of her sponsors in the race to buy influence, silence investigators, and win more single-sourced contracts.
Only the thoroughly naïve will believe you if you say that this ordinary hairdresser was acting on her own and that all those billions of shillings found in her bank accounts were for her exclusive use.
Corruption is about networks, influence, and powerful political sponsors.
The Kabura affidavit is not just about individuals or particular officials, but an environment where too many people were involved in freelance rent-seeking at the NYS.
What new insights have we learnt from this saga about how the corruption and bribery game is played in this country?
First, that if you throw too much money at a government department without weighing its capacity to absorb the funds, you will have provided a setting for corruption. The budget of the NYS was jerked up from a mere Sh4 billion to a whopping Sh25 billion in a matter of 12 months.
CORRUPTLY PROCURED PROJECTS
We only started hearing about corruptly procured projects at the Judiciary when its budget increased exponentially within a short period.
Secondly, a project that enjoys political support from the very top is more likely to suffer corrupt practices than rank-and-file projects that offer the ruling elite no major opportunities for political mileage.
We all know that the slum rehabilitation project was touted by the leadership of the Jubilee administration as a game changer. Indeed, President Uhuru Kenyatta was a staunch supporter of the Kibera slum development project.
Why do we, citizens of Kenya, allow people in power who have been accused of corruption to blind us by employing diversionary tactics?
The game is all too familiar: When as a politician you are accused of corruption, you resort to conspiracy theories, dismissing everything as machinations of your political enemies and imaginary cartels.
We have a crop of leaders who will not accept responsibility for their errors, even when it is clear to everybody that they are at fault.
Instead, the tactic is to shift focus to corruption allegations against others so as to create a sense of shared complicity.
The conversation is reduced to scoring propaganda points over who between you and your political opponents is more corrupt. In Kenya, even an ex-convict will vie for a political seat, and win.