It’s too early for graft to rock Ruto’s government

Monday, May 22nd, 2023 02:00 | By
It’s too early for graft to rock Ruto’s government

Two major scandals have rocked the highest echelons of President William Ruto’s Government in the last two weeks.

The first was the scandal over the Sh3.7 billion tender for treated mosquito bed nets that was floated by the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa). The mosquito nets were being paid for by the Global Fund.

After reviewing the tender process, the Global Fund found it flawed. It said that none of the bidders qualified, including the winning bidder, Partecea East Africa. Kemsa doubled down on their award, dismissing the objections by Global Fund.

Furious, the Global Fund pulled the plug on the entire tender. The process was moved to Geneva, meaning that Kemsa lost the agency fee of Sh300 million for procurement, warehousing and distribution.

Not to be left behind, the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) came up with its own screamer. A sugar consignment of 20,000 bags of 50kgs each that it had condemned in 2018 because it lacked expiry details was diverted and released into the market. It had been stored in godowns awaiting destruction.

President Ruto’s reaction was swift and decisive. In the Kemsa case, the chief executive, Terry Ramadhani, and six of her officers were suspended. The entire board, barely months into office, was sent packing. The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Josephine Mburu, was shown the door. There was an all-out bloodletting over the sugar scam. Twenty seven officers from at least nine Government ministries and agencies, including Kebs Managing Director, Lt. Col. (Rtd) Bernard Njiraini, were sent packing.

The affected agencies ranged from Kebs, Kenya Revenue Authority, National Police Service,   Directorate of Criminal Investigation, Agricultural and Food Authority, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services, Anti-Counterfeit Agency, and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Agency. It is now obvious that many senior Government officials are completely at variance with the President in changing Kenya. For them, it clearly is business as usual.  As the saying goes, it is our time to eat!

Mr President, it is too early for the Kenya Kwanza Government to start having corruption scandals. When will it focus on delivering its manifesto to Kenyans?

These rogue officials constitute the greatest threat yet to the Kenya Kwanza Government. People are really struggling financially, and scandals of this magnitude might just push them over the edge. The country is still teetering on the edge of a cliff, requiring very little to tip over.

The President has no choice but to stamp out corruption. Corruption hindered any benefits of the top down approach from reaching the grassroots. It will do the same to the bottom up approach if not checked.

Further, it will destroy all public goodwill that Ruto now enjoys, and it will be downhill from then on. Kenyans are ready to give him time to work and revive the decrepit economy he inherited. Public goodwill is now the President’s most precious asset! He must guard it jealously.

And, of course, the President’s detractors are now wringing their hands with glee, telling anyone who cares to hear, “we told you.” With such corruption scandals, that narrative will grow legs. The swift and decisive response from the President was what people expected to see, given his tough talk on corruption. But Kenyans expect him to go even further. The so-called shadowy “senior Government officials” providing political cover for these deals must be exposed, prosecuted, and stripped of any corruptly gotten wealth. These people understand no other message.

Finally, there is a strong message to boards of Government agencies from what has happened to the Kemsa board. You are not flower girls. Your work is not to “escort” your chief executive to foreign junkets and cheer on the PS.

Your job is to ensure proper corporate governance is adhered to in your institutions. You are responsible for anything that goes wrong either by omission, or commission. Most of the now sacked Kemsa directors are still probably wondering what hit them. The message to the others is loud and clear- Stay woke!

— Gathu Kaara can be reached at [email protected]

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