It is essential to emphasise how evil, nefarious and debilitating corruption and its many related bedfellows are to a country and its citizens.
The standard of living and quality of life of virtually every Kenyan is literally debased.
A recent report sponsored by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) and the World Bank paints a depressing picture of the dilapidated and decrepit county hospitals.
Whatever money the government receives barely covers the salaries and wages of core staff. They limp along with limited medicines and the overstretched workforce is often short of vital doctors and medical support staff.
Relatives and friends of those unfortunate to be incarcerated in these so-called hospitals are encouraged to bring food, linen and even medicines to patients.
Of course, there are administrative glitches and shortages of vital funds but the underlying cause is corruption, coupled with maladministration.
Corruption traverses virtually every institution and is not purely a government or local government affair.
It spans the political, social and economic landscape. It is often generously fed by the private sector, which is willing to supply overpriced items with kickbacks and be a party to the theft of resources.
The venerable Professor Makau Mutua summed it up neatly when he described the menace as “the endemic corruption that has infested the bone marrow of the State”.
The zest with which Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Haji and company are carrying out their mandate is encouraging and exceedingly laudable.
I have maintained that his office needs much more forensic and administrative capacity and it is encouraging to see some of that being received.
Charging suspects is one thing but convicting them for their crimes is the ultimate goal. It is interesting to see that the idea of plea bargaining is starting to be entertained. This is used the world over to turn some insiders into State witnesses, which, in turn, secures crucial evidence and, consequently, more convictions.
It is essential to get at the facilitators as well as the end culprits themselves.
Chief Justice David Maraga has taken some actions to be prepared for this avalanche of cases. Goodwill is one thing but the capacity to dispense justice equitably and swiftly is another. I have yet to be convinced that our judicial system is up to such a herculean task, bearing in mind that the courts will be grossly overloaded.
Outsourcing prosecutors, even on a contract basis, is a must, just as recruiting advocates to be Commissioners of Assize. It is practised elsewhere when the judicial system gets overloaded.
It must be a multi-pronged co-ordinated effort involving the Office of the DPP and the Asset Recovery Agency.
Demolishing buildings built on riparian land is one thing. But their construction involved a human and paper trail of applications, approvals and facilitations which, in most cases, were irregular or plain illegal.
These individuals, public officers and entities, whoever they are and wherever they may be, are all culpable and should be tracked down and prosecuted. Accessories to a crime are also suspects and subject to the due process.
The same applies to grabbed land. All parties involved in the deed must be charged. That will, undoubtedly, affect senior and junior officers in many national and county government departments and even some previous and serving governors and Cabinet secretaries as well as private individuals. So be it.
Punishment for such mega crimes should be commensurate to the crime. This is grand theft, not knavery.
Freezing of all bank accounts of suspects is just an elementary start. Forfeiture of assets commensurate with the crime is a must and we need to move down that road soon.
The bottom line is, make the price of corruption so high it does not pay to be corrupt.
Reducing the level of corruption is the key to many things. It will raise the standard of living and the quality of goods and services, create a greater degree of social justice, even help to reduce the horrendous divide between the rich and the poor and the haves and have-nots. It will make the ambitious ‘Big Four’ agenda that little bit more attainable.
It is not the magic bullet per se but, if followed diligently, it will give this country renewed oxygen and energy. Kenyans are proud of their country but very cynical of its failings, largely due to corruption. Reduce the latter significantly and give this country a fantastic future.
Mr Shaw is a public policy and economic analyst. [email protected]