From funding to hanging: How candidates plan to fight graft
The anti-corruption agenda is expected to dominate the August election campaigns after the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission entered into a deal with Interfaith Religious Council of Kenya (IRCK) to launch an onslaught against tainted politicians.
Under the deal signed on Monday, religious leaders will use the pulpit to persuade the electorate not to vote for people with integrity questions.
In a statement read by IRCK chairman Father Joseph Mutie, the clergy offered to campaign against corrupt leaders, saying despite efforts to enforce Chapter Six of the Constitution on Leadership and Integrity, people who fall below the expected moral and ethical standards were cleared to run for office.
“We shall support EACC and other agencies charged with the responsibility of banishing the demons of corruption from our country and call upon Kenyans to shun, shame and shake the walls of the corrupt,” read the statement signed by EACC chairman, retired Anglican Church Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Mutie and EACC Chief Executive Twalib Mbarak.
For the past one month, the issue of corruption has dominated campaigns with candidates and coalitions challenging each other about anti-graft policies and integrity credentials.
All the four presidential candidates – Deputy President William Ruto, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, George Wajackoyah (Roots Party) and Agano’s Mwaure Waihiga – have explained how they intend to tackle corruption if they are elected.
The candidates are also using the corruption agenda to puncture each other’s reputations.
Raila and his running-mate Martha Karua present themselves as the best team to fight graft and paint Ruto and his running mate Rigathi Gachagua, as the face of corruption.
But Ruto has said he will empower State agencies to fight graft. The DP says efforts to eradicate the vice had failed because the war had been personalised. He has persistently claimed that anti-corruption agencies had been used to fight him and his allies.
Ruto has also accused Raila of being a beneficiary of stolen money through campaign funding.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, who once said Sh2 billion in public funds is lost daily to graft, has asked Kenyans not to elect thieves in the next election. Uhuru supports Raila’s presidential bid.
Like all his other campaign pledges, Wajackoyah’s anti-corruption policy is radical. The Roots Party candidate has promised to change the law to provide for the hanging of corruption convicts.
Mwaure has claimed that his tough anti-corruption stand in the campaigns could compromise his safety and wants his security enhanced.
Dr Samuel Nyandemo, a senior lecturer at the School of Economics at the University of Nairobi says that while the anti-corruption message will resonate well with the voters owing to the seriousness of the problem, the candidates need to explain in detail how they intend to slay the dragon.
“Corruption in this country has hit the apex and is an issue of concern to Kenyans, and to convince the voters that they are the best candidates, one must explain how they will address the mess,” Nyandemo told People Daily.
Some estimates indicate that Kenya loses up to Sh800 billion annually to graft.
Currently, hundreds of officials in national and county governments and shadowy traders are being investigated for corrupt dealings relating to Sh100 billion of taxpayer’s money.
Among the big graft scandals in the past decade include the Kimwarer and Arror dams scam, National Youth Service rip-off, Kenya Medical Suppliers Authority (Kemsa) procurement theft and the 2016 Rio Olympics Scandal.
There are also investigations or court cases related to corruption at Kenya Power, National Hospital Insurance Fund, Kenya Pipeline and Kenya Forest Services.
Several governors and county government officials are battling theft cases in court or are under probe.
For first time, EACC and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions have mounted a campaign to convince Kenyans to shun corrupt politicians in the August election. “If you are hiring an accountant and you get to know one of the applicants for the job has a background of theft, will you hire them? If it’s a house help, if one has a history of stealing and misbehaving, will you take them in? Why are we being sympathetic to politicians?” EACC’s Twalib posed.
Constitutional lawyer Ndegwa Njiru, who has handled graft related issues says: “The reasons why corruption is a major concern is because of the massive theft that has happened in this country. The President has talked about it and expressed his frustrations because every time he attempted to fight corruption, his deputy would say that he was being targeted.”
Raila and Karua have intensified their attacks on Ruto, saying he and his running mate Gachagua cannot be trusted with public resources because of their past track record.
“He (Ruto) is saying that he will fight corruption, how can he fight corruption when he is the face of corruption? He leads in issues of corruption, he takes whatever he finds in the public coffers and carries it away in sacks,” Raila said of the DP, adding that he will send all thieves of public money to prison.
Karua has been persuading voters to reject people whose past is tainted by allegations of theft of public resources, arguing that electing corrupt leaders is akin to trusting a hyena with one’s goats.
“Even in your family, you know which child you cannot send to look after goats because you know they will not return home with all of them. Now look at the two teams seeking the presidency and see who you can send to the shop with money and who you cannot,” the Narc Kenya leader said, adding unless graft is tamed, no election promises will be honoured.
Gachagua has been charged with stealing Sh7.3 billion through dubious government tenders while Ruto has been accused of grabbing of land belonging to Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, where he built the Weston Hotel.
“By settling on Gachagua who has an active court case of corruption relating to over Sh7 billion he opened himself for attack because he showed that he identifies with corruption. He should have gone for someone who isn’t tainted. Again, if you look at some of the candidates in his party, they are people with graft cases either in court or in final investigation stages. It’s said, show me your friends and I will tell you how you are,” Ndegwa said.
He added: “The question Kenyans need to ask themselves is, if they vote for a team that is full of persons facing graft charges, do you expect them to jail graft suspects? Do you expect them to empower the Judiciary? Do you expect them to empower EACC and DPP to jail graft suspects? That will be tantamount to cutting the hands that feed them.”
But Ruto has fought back, saying he has a better plan to fight corruption if he is elected president. He says he will ensure the Judiciary, EACC, DPP and DCI are empowered, including financially, to fight corruption.
“It is our commitment to operationalise the Judiciary Fund and get the Judiciary to independently undertake its responsibilities so that corruption cases do not take 10 years because the Judiciary is under-capacity and does not have enough resources to hire personnel to discharge its duties,” Ruto said.
He also accused Raila of being the “biggest beneficiary” of the vice in the country.
“The people campaigning with you have stolen from the sick people. They have stolen money from Kenya Medical and Supplies Agency (Kemsa) and they are financing your campaign,” he said.
Wajackoyah argues that the ultimate antidote to corruption is the death penalty.
“I will do what has worked in other countries. I will ask Kenyans whether they would like restoration of death penalty to those who have stolen from them and if they say yes, they (graft suspects) will be tried and thereafter face the firing squad. Not necessary a firing squad but they will be hanged because we shall have the ropes made of hemp (cannabis fibre) which is very strong,” he said.