Friday, October 13, 2006

Anglo Leasing List of Shame

On 20 September 2006, the minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs Ms Martha Karua released what she termed as the Anglo Leasing list of shame. The list includes names of two current ministers in President Mwai Kibaki’s government (Narc) and eight former ministers both in former President Moi’s government (Kanu) and Kibaki’s government. It also includes names of 12 permanent secretaries in both Kanu and Narc governments.

The list of names and the type of contracts covered the period between 1997 and 2002 when Kanu was in power and 2003 to 2004 when Narc was in charge. The current sitting ministers are Vice-President and Minister for Home Affairs Moddy Awori and Minister for Roads Simeon Nyachae. The former ministers in the Kanu government are Musila Mudavadi, William Ruto, Chris Okem, Julius Sunkuli, Chris Obure and William ole Ntimama. Those in the Narc government are David Mwiraria and Dr. Chris Murungaru.

The government seems to have changed tactic and is now willing to hold ministers, in whose watch the Anglo Leasing contracts were signed, accountable. Prior to this, only permanent secretaries were charged in court in relations to the corruption contracts. Ms Karua said she was making the names public in order to stop the Opposition from blaming the Government over all the fraudulent deals. According to her some of the opposition politicians shouting corruption loudest were heavily implicated and the public was entitled to know this.

The permanent secretaries mentioned in relation to Anglo Leasing corruption contracts are Sylvester Mwaliko, sammy Kyungu, David Mwangi, Joseph Magari, Ali Korane, Margaret Chmengich, Zakayo Cheruiyot, Mwaghazi Mwachofi, Simeon Lesirma, Moses Obudo and S. K. Bondotich (financial secretary).

Anglo Leasing corruption scandal involves a total of 20 shady government contracts. They began during Moi’s era and continued during Kibaki’s rule. Unearthed in 2004, the contracts involved dubious, multi-million dollar contracts for supplying Kenya with a system to produce tamper-proof passports, and for building police forensic laboratories among others. The deals involved Anglo Leasing and Finance Ltd -- a fictitious company.

The main contention regarding accountability of those involved has been where to place the blame. Is it on the ministers who are the political heads of the ministries and who do not have the power to sign the contracts? Or is it with the permanent secretaries who are the executive heads of the ministries and who wield the power to sign such contracts? Ministers named in the scandal exonerate themselves claiming that they are not guilty because they did not sign the contracts. The cases already brought in court have involved only the permanent secretaries but in a recent move the Kenya anti-corruption commission has recommended the prosecution of ministers.

I think the issue of accountability can be viewed from two perspectives: legal and political (ethical). Under the legal perspective, the issue of guilt is a matter of interpretation by the court. It is the court that will decide where to place the blame either on the ministers or the permanent secretaries or both.

As regards political and ethical accountability, I think the ministers named in the scandal have no choice but to resign from their public offices awaiting further investigations and determination of guilt by the court of law. It is hypocritical for any minister or politician to claim that they cannot resign until evidence is adduced. Similarly, it would also be hypocritical for any politician named in corruption scandal to vie for any public office elective or otherwise. Corruption allegations are serious and they should be treated with due seriousness.

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