By going after the Treasury bosses implicated in the Arror and Kimwarer dams scandal last week, Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji demonstrated he still has the kind of spine some of us thought he had lost.
The scandal, in which up to Sh65 billion of taxpayers’ money is believed to have been sunk in non-existent dams, had become the subject of factional fighting among the ruling elite.
None other than Deputy President William Ruto came out publicly to state that the disputed amount was only Sh7 billion and that there were insurance guarantees in any case, suggesting no money was lost.
Mr Ruto’s political lieutenants took to the podium in different parts of the country, depicting investigations into the phantom dam projects in Elgeyo-Marakwet County as part of a conspiracy to block him from succeeding President Uhuru Kenyatta in the 2022 elections.
The lines of attack, including casting aspersions on the work of the DPP, suggested a well-orchestrated plot to scare him off the case.
Past experience shows that dragging corruption cases involving the big fish into the gutters of ethnic or factional party politics is the easiest way to derail them.
Mr Haji deserves credit for standing up to the political bullies and preferring charges against suspended Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich and Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge, alongside Kerio Valley Development Authority officials accused of awarding tenders to an Italian firm struggling with bankruptcy back home.
Even the gods of justice seemed to have been happy with Kenya’s anti-corruption war last week, with a judge cutting off a key legal lifeline that public officials have hung onto after being charged with graft to continue enjoying the gravy train.
Justice Mumbi Ngugi declared a section of the anti-corruption and economic crimes law that allows such officials continued access to their offices unconstitutional.
The decision adds an arrow to the quiver of the DPP’s office and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), which have in the past argued that letting accused persons stay in office allows them to interfere with evidence and defeat justice.
But, it also puts more pressure on the two agencies to deliver high-profile convictions.
Despite the significant deterrence value that the arrests and arraignments serve, the public would still want to see the big fish behind bars to believe that the fight against grand corruption is real.
And the DPP and the EACC don’t have much time on their hands. The current window of political goodwill opened by President Kenyatta closes in 2022 when his final term in office ends.
Thanks to our flawed electoral laws, some of the officials currently facing graft charges will have by that time rebranded themselves as politicians and won parliamentary seats, putting them in positions to fire Mr Haji and hire the next DPP.
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