With convictions comes chink of light in war against corruption

Tuesday July 07 2020

The June 22 conviction of Sirisia MP John Waluke (right) and his business associate Grace Wakhungu (left) for corruption sent positive shockwaves across the country. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


I am beginning to feel more positive that the war against corruption is slowly gathering momentum. Don’t get me wrong: I do not feel wildly optimistic or even gung-ho about it; just a bit better. I look at it from the point of view of a long, laborious war on several fronts; every battle won is one more step in the right direction.

The June 22 conviction of Sirisia MP John Waluke and his business associate Grace Wakhungu for corruption sent positive shockwaves across the country. The lengthy prison sentences and hefty fines meted out on the two and the horror on their faces went viral.

Kenyans are generally a cynical lot when it comes to punishment for corruption and feel most either get away with it or wriggle their way out of it. They blame lack of political will and a limping judicial system that cannot keep up with the cases before it. Taking a case to court can, sometimes, be tantamount to killing it slowly.


The Waluke-Wakhungu case struck a welcoming chord in many as the cynics were proved wrong. But two swallows do not a summer make — if I may rephrase the expression — and so the big question is whether we will see more convictions.

I suspect we will. The number of high-profile cases lined up in the courts are plentiful. And, even by the law of averages, more cases are being heard and more convictions will be made.


The fly in the proverbial ointment is the slothful pace the judicial system moves and how one can purposely play the game of slowing it further and even dodging it. But that said, it has improved marginally. Technology is gradually infiltrating the system and long-hand transcribing will slowly become a thing of the past.

What comes out clearly in the Waluke-Wakhungu case is that serious legwork was done by the office of the DPP and others. Like many scams that involve importations, the crimes cross several borders. In this case, investigations had to be undertaken in South Africa to ascertain and prove that much of the purported maize deal was actually false or not even there.


The other positive is that the EACC is becoming more organised and aggressive. The cases against Sonko and Co. are moving along and it appears a lot of homework has been and is being done and interesting ammunition being collected.

Of course we would want to see more happening faster, but again, at least there’s movement and a CEO trying to speed it up. We want to see more and more resources, money and energy going into such set-ups so the capacity can be built and the amount of work done increased.

It may sound rather boring and mundane but the key is to slowly build the capacity of such bodies so they can collect more evidence to enhance and enrich their investigations. And it is not just a case of throwing more money or donor aid at them.

Corruption, economic crime, fraud and their other stable mates are evolving all the time and becoming more complex, sophisticated and devious. That means investigators must become better trained and more intrepid and keep catching up with the latest techniques as well as technology.


That also means having a close and good working relationship with those around the world who are the pioneers and leaders in anti-crime technology. And it should not be confined to the investigators; everybody in the chain — prosecutors, lawmakers and the Judiciary — must be up to speed on this fast-moving and -changing industry called crime and criminal technology.

Remember, big bucks are often involved; so, the criminals can have sizeable financial war chests for planning, facilitating and executing them. This is often in sharp contrast to the people who are chasing them.

There is a long way to go but compared to, say, a year ago, there is more evidence that the talk is being walked. There may not be dramatic breakthroughs but progress there is. The challenge now is to critically evaluate where the weak links are and what is needed and to work on and eliminate them.

Mr Shaw is a public policy and economic analyst:[email protected]