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Collapsing cases bad for war on corruption

Wednesday January 9 2019

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The energy and determination exhibited by the Director of Criminal Investigations and the Director of Public Prosecution in the war against corruption has given Kenyans high hopes. In a matter of months, many high-profile public officials have been seized and arraigned in court to answer to corruption charges. Among these are those suspected to have been involved in the scandals at the National Youth Service, which has become a veritable den for graft.

However, concerns have been expressed about the trial of the cases. First, they take exceedingly longer to be adjudicated and dispensed with. Which is why the Executive has been critical of the Judiciary, asking it to find ways and means of expediting the trials. Chief Justice David Maraga has committed himself to doing just that but we are not there yet.

Second, which is the substantive point of discussion here, is the quality of investigations and evidence presented before the court. This week, the court freed 11 suspects in the NYS case upon the application of the DPP, Mr Noordin Haji, to withdraw the charges against them. Prosecution and conviction are based on incontrovertible evidence. Investigative and prosecution authorities are obliged to assemble concrete facts to sustain any charge in court. Lack of that undermines the legal process. A lot of work has to be done on this.

Oftentimes, the Judiciary is blamed for lethargy in handling criminal cases, and for a good reason. However, at times it is not for their incompetence. On occasions, it is because the prosecution has not done its work properly or argued out its case competently.

It is not lost on us that, in the first term of the Jubilee administration, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission gave President Uhuru Kenyatta a list of Cabinet secretaries, principal secretaries and other top government officials allegedly involved in corruption, who were subsequently fired. But most of the accusations fell flat for lack of evidence. That is the kind of scenario we cannot countenance.

Therefore, the starting point for winning the war against corruption is ensuring there is sufficient evidence. There is a grave danger when corruption cases collapse because the public easily loses confidence in the fight. Worse, it emboldens the corrupt in the knowledge that they are safe. That public confidence must be sustained, especially when there is political goodwill as it is today.

Yet the war must be fought and won. We commend the DCI and the DPP for their commitment but the lesson is that they must do more homework so that, when they seize and present suspects in court, they have sufficient evidence to secure a conviction.