Sunday, December 31, 2006

Corruption Expected to Dominate News in 2007 Again

As 2006 fades away and 2007 ushers in, the war against corruption in Kenya is still in abeyance. Has the war against corruption been lost? That is the question many will be asking themselves. Since 2007 is an election year, allegations and counter-accusations on corruption are expected to dominate the media and political arena again. As we review the events that shaped the war against corruption in 2006 we expect 2007 will be no different.

As a summary, the year 2006 was characterised by high voltage political rhetoric but very little action to eradicate corruption. Opposition politicians were as usual the most outspoken condemning the government for inaction and spread of corruption among its ranks. Angloleasing scandal was the main corruption baggage the government could not get rid off and it gave President Kibaki’s government the most unwanted label of corruption. The government did not hesitate on its part to throw a few salvos to the opposition politicians reminding them that most of them were suspect in corruption scandals of Moi government especially the Goldenberg scandal and even the new Angloleasing scandal. This culminated with the publishing of the Anglo-Leasing and Kitale Prison Land lists of shame by the government.

The year 2006, however, started with the damning Githongo Angloleasing report, made public internationally in the late 2005 by the author. The report immediately claimed its first casualties when two ministers in the Kibaki government were forced to resign. Kenyan Finance Minister David Mwiraria and the Minister for Justice and Constitutional affairs Kiraitu Mirungi resigned after being linked to the corruption scandal. A third Minister David Murungaru, Minister for Security had been dropped from Kibaki’s government reshuffle after the ill-fated constitutional referendum vote in November 2005. The Anglo Leasing scandal also triggered the suspension of four senior civil servants. But the Vice President who was also implicated refused to budge to resignation calls claiming that he was innocent. Kiraitu has since been reinstated, as the Minister for Energy, after the allegations against him could not be supported by evidence.

The Githogo report also saw members of two public institutions, the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) led by the Official Leader of the opposition Uhuru Kenyatta and the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) led by the Director Justice Aaron Ringera travel to London to interview the author. The PAC report recommended prosecution of those involved. The KACC proposed charges against some of the culprits but the Attorney General returned the files to KACC for lack of adequate investigation. The year 2006 was also characterised by counter-accusations between the KACC and Attorney Generals office which only contributed to slowing down the resolve to fight corruption.

In the ending year, the investigation by an Inquiry Commission on the longest financial scandal in Kenya, the Goldenberg was handed to the government. The report claimed that the former President Daniel arap Moi must have been aware of a scam which cost some $600m. It also recommended the prosecution of Education Minister George Saitoti – the then finance minister under Mr Moi among other personalities. Saitoti was relieved his ministerial job to pave way for prosecution but he moved very fast to the court and had the prosecution against him dismissed. He has since bee reinstated to the same position an action. The reinstatement has been highly condemned national and internationally. Whether Kibaki's action deserves condemnation, when the court has given its decision, depends on the weight we put on our democratic institutions.

One institution that has been on the spotlight in 2006 is the KACC. It has been accused of impartiality, incompetence and laxity. As a consequence, some opposition leaders had threatened to demonstrate to the Directors office and remove him from office. KACC has countered these accusations by referring to cases, that it has dealt with in its website, which was not available at the time of this writing. A glimpse of site reveals a lot of activities that are not brought to the public awareness by the media or politicians.

The courts have handled a number of court cases against corrupt officials but this has not resonated well with the public. High profile candidates seem to miss from the list of the accused. Kenyans love high drama and therefore they would like to see a couple of Ministers in the dock and sentenced to prison. Whether this will happen in 2007 we wait to see. But the electorate should always remember that they have the power to hire and fire their elected leaders. Use your vote to get rid of corrupt leaders.

We take this opportunity to thank our readers for your confidence in us. We promise to continue giving you incisive commentaries and analysis on corruption the coming year.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Kenyan MPs' Hefty Pay Increases is an Act of Corruption!

Corruption is a serious indictment to level against our "honourable" MPs especially when the power to award themselves pay hikes is endowed on them by law. The recent pay hike that has aroused public hue and cry was purportedly made under the Statute Bill (Miscellaneous Amendment Act) 2006. It is important therefore to define what we mean by corruption here, so as to place their actions on a proper perspective.

In general life we associate corruption with bribery, kickbacks, or misappropriation of public funds and property. Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines corruption as i) impairment of integrity, virtue, or moral principle ii) inducement to wrong by improper or unlawful means, iii) a departure from the original or from what is pure correct. To what extend can we therefore say that MPs' actions fall within the parameters of this definition?

The first order of business by the current Kenyan Parliament, which was elected on 30 December 2002, was to increase their pay. They voted themselves huge increases in allowances and travelling expenses. Currently, an MP earns a gross salary of over Ksh 800,000. Recently they increased the salary of the President by 300% from Ksh 700,000 to Ksh 3,200,000. At the same time the MPs proposed for themselves a total of Ksh 1,500,000 each as a handshake at the end of the life of the current parliament. The President, however, as a result of pressure from the public has rejected the high pay accorded to him.

It is no doubt that Kenyan MPs, and Ministers are the highest paid politicians in the world. A comparison made with pay of leaders in most developed countries like USA and Britain and some African countries such as South Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda by International Jurist Commission - Kenya leaves no doubt to the veracity of this assertion. Furthermore, the high pay compares poorly with the low per capita economic figures in Kenya and the poor performance of the MPs in the parliament. The parliament suffers from chronic lack of quorum, as most MPs do not regularly attend parliamentary sessions. According to the Guardian in 2004 MPs spent 57 days in parliament. Last year their workload was even smaller and only five pieces of legislation were passed. The huge salary awards also compare grimly with the dismal pay Kenyans get in general and the fact that most of the population lives on less than a one US dollar per day.

A recent public survey conducted in Kenya sponsored by the government cited the Parliament as the most corrupt institution. The survey conclusion was based on the general public perception that the hefty increases in pay and emoluments MPs have rewarded themselves in the recent years were unjustified and a blatant abuse of office. The Kenya Times newspaper continues to say that in the case of MPs, the report says, the result could also have been based on the simple expression of general displeasure with the National Assembly or individual MPs based on particular examples of corruption in individual terms. In addition the report said that though MPs are rarely in bribery-demand situations, on the contrary they are alleged to initiate them at least during election campaigns. Others rate the lawmakers as corrupt due to the manner in which they widely buy their way into the National Assembly, the report says. Other factors such as salary levels and the motivation of personnel, the report says, may also have contributed to their lower rankings compared to those of government institutions.

The fact that one is authorised by law to perform certain duties and actions does not imply that the law empowers misuse of that power. What the MPs have done with impunity is to misuse the power granted to them (i.e. to reasonably assess and reward themselves proper pay). They have increased their pay without due regard to the general level of salaries paid to ordinary workers (it does not matter that CEOs and other senior civil servants are paid more, this are not ordinary workers). They have not also taken consideration of the general performance of the economy as well as regard of what other MPs and political leaders earn in the world. Their actions are therefore improper and unlawful. They are also an ethical because they go contrary to the expectation of the majority of the people as the survey above has indicated. The high pay increase is as such a departure from the original and from what is pure correct (reasonable assessment). Furthermore, the high pecks increase is a manifestation of pure greed, which has impaired MPs integrity, virtue and moral principles. It amounts to pure looting and plunder of public resources and economy.

It is not the objective of this Blog to condemn all MPs wholesale. It is, however, the duty of the electorate to thoroughly scrutinise every MP and to ensure that those who fail to pass the test are voted out during the next general election. The electorate has also the sacred duty to salvage the image of the Parliament from a corrupt house to a house of integrity by kicking out the rotten elements. As the ICJ-Kenya has asked "are Kenyans therefore willing to elect leaders who will reduce pay perks for MPs and other senior public servants to a level that our economy can afford?" Moreover, this Blog asks are Kenyans willing to elect persons of integrity who will serve public interest and not MPs’ personal interests first?

Related views
MPs fingured in graft
Vote All MPs Out
Cleric Fury over Kibakis Pay
Kenya Cannot Afford Hefty Salaries for Public Officials
Kenya's Costly Politics - The Guardian

Monday, December 11, 2006

Nobel Peace Price Winner 2006: Elect Clean Leaders to Public Office

Professor Muhamed Yunus the Nobel Peace Price winner 2006 said in an enclusive interview with CNN Jonthan Mann after the award of the Nobel Peace Medal in Oslo 10 December 2006 that to fight corruption it is necessary to elect clean leaders to public office. He added that electing corrupt leaders worsens the incident of corruption as these leaders will grab more and more at the expense of the people and national interest. It is very important therefore to educate the electorate on how to elect clean leaders and lock out the corrupt. The founder of micro-credit Grameen Bank (Village Bank), which gives small loans to the poor especially women, said that he is dedicating his efforts on education of the electorate rather than running for the office himself.

The Noble Peace Laurent's view on fighting corruption supports the perspective advanced in this blog that the most effective way to eliminate corruption in society is to lock out corrupt leaders from public office during elections. In this way the electorate will be sending clear message to those who hold public offices that corruption does not pay and will not be tolerated.

This blog salutes and congratulates Professor Muhamed Yunus and Grameen Bank for the award of this years Nobel Peace Price and his efforts to fight poverty in his country and the world over as the concept of micro-credit is duplicated in other countries.