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Corruption: Eating Kenya away inch by inch

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Pray for Kenya, if this doesn’t speak of a hopeless society, what does?

corruptionThe Biblical story about the fall of man mentions a curse where God tells man that the ground will bear him “thorns and thistles” after he is hoodwinked into eating the very fruit that God had forbidden him from eating.

Although Kenyans have seen many such thorns and thistles sprout from the ground, the latest ones prick deepest. Corruption is, today, the proverbial cockroach that has refused to die. The vice has now permeated every facet of our lives and touched the innermost core of the Kenyan Society. From the church to government, the vice rules. Even the watchdogs tasked with fighting it have succumbed to it.

This evil, which has been the butt of jokes and serious discourse, with the president himself recently admitting that it had become a cancer, has been changing names and nature in a complex metamorphosis.

Call it chicken or chai, this crime has continuously defied legislation, tough talk and ranks. We should probably dread it more than terrorists and lions on the loose. However, this is not the case, in fact, we seem to have embraced it as a way of life.

A recent survey by the East African Institute says Kenya’s youths, who make up the bulk of the population, would not think twice about evading taxes and taking a bribe as long as they do not end up in jail, in fact, 35 per cent said they would readily give or take a bribe

According to the Kenya Youth Survey Report, more than half of our young people admire people who have made money through through dubious means. “Corruption works miracles in this country – a couple of months ago, I went to pick my driving license, and after three days of never-ending queues, I was advised to part with Sh1,500 – a day later, my driving license was brought to me at home,’’ Goeffrey Kipkoech says.

Whether it is apathy or voluntary compliance, Kenyans just gave up fighting corruption, as they say, they accepted and moved on. Like those who have refused to repent, they seem to have chosen to bear the curse like Adam and Eve.

In life and in death

As we weed and water these thorns and thistles of corruption, willingly or not, let us remember that graft long stopped being a government problem, rather, a problem that we should all work towards solving, since it affects us all. Forget about the gun-toting thugs or the grenade-hurling terrorists, corruption is probably the biggest threat to the quality of life you live today.

Treasury’s annual debt report projects that Kenya’s total debt will have risen to Sh3 trillion by the end of 2016-2017 financial year. This means that every child born in this duration will be indebted to the tune of Sh75,000.

The soaring national debt set aside for ambitious infrastructural projects is what ‘skillful’ individuals apportion into their pockets. In 2010, the government admitted that up to one third of its annual budget is eaten up by corrupt individuals. What the Finance ministry officials were admitting is that corruption was a major shareholder in Kenya’s financial planning.

What would life be like for a child born today? Besides being born into the huge debt mentioned earlier, the unborn child’s mother will be lucky to get to hospital in time when labour kicks in, thanks to poor roads constructed by contractors who were awarded the contract after giving kickbacks, and then proceeded to do a shoddy job. Should she get to the hospital in time, there might be no bed, as well as other requirements that a woman in labour needs, including medication, because some of it might have been smuggled out of the hospital to the doctor’s private clinic in the neighbourhood. That she survives with such odds stacked against her will be a miracle.

LAGGING BEHIND

At home, your poor parents struggle to till a small piece of barren ground every year, only to get poor yields, because the superior seeds and subsidised fertilisers the government dispatched to farmers was rerouted elsewhere, and is probably benefitting farmers of means. These farmers will go on to export their bounty harvest and make a ton of money while the poor farmer struggles on. They have accepted and moved on the Kenyan way.

After numerous fundraisings and back-breaking sacrifices, your parents manage to take you to secondary school. There, you bump into  the ghost of corruption immediately you walk through the gates. There are no desks or chairs, so your parents have to buy them, otherwise you will learn while standing. What happened to the Constituency Development Fund allocation? Wasn’t there money set aside by the Ministry of Education for this, as well as the construction of classrooms and purchase of books?

Come examination time, you hear whispers that you can buy examination papers a few hours before the exams, that once you pay, they will be sent through WhatsApp. Poor you though, you do not have a smartphone, after all, your parents cannot afford one of their own. Worse still, your school is not among those ‘connected’ enough. Thanks to corruption again, chances are that you will be trailing behind when results are announced, while the exam cheats who could afford to pay for the answers, make it to the front pages of newspapers, and then the 9pm news.

You manage to perform well enough to get to the university though, where the Higher Education Loans Board thankfully loans you tuition money, so your parents can exhale a little. During that first semester though, you learn about the infamous ‘Sexually Transmitted Grades’ (STGs) where some students sleep with teachers in exchange for top grades.

You were raised to be honest, so there is no way you will go down that route to get that first-class honours you are eyeing, and so you read late into the night, as your roommate takes it easy and parties through the four years at university, since she is assured of coming tp of her class, whether she reads or not. On graduation day, even though you knew it would happen, you feel thoroughly cheated, and a sense of heavy injustice descends on you when classmates who never stepped into a classroom emerge top performers.

What you do not know is that this monster called corruption has not even reared its entire head. Job-seeking will teach you that the internal decay of corruption runs deeper than you knew. You send your job application to numerous companies, but none gets back. The next thing you see in the local newspapers is a list of ‘successful’ applicants. Of course your name is not among these. Most probably, most of these applicants did not go through any interviews to begin with. They either bribed the head honcho there, or were sneaked in by a relative or someone who knows someone, who knows someone they know.

At times, job-hunting requires travelling out of Nairobi. On one such trip, you board a near-empty mini bus, but by the time it starts the journey, it is overloaded – this is obviously against traffic rules, but since you do not have a car of your own, and want to get to your destination in time, you swallow your objections and say a prayer that the police do not flag down the vehicle, because you will surely end up getting late for your interview.

The overloaded bus picks up speed as soon as it is out of the city centre. You are sure that it is doing over 80kms per hour, in spite of a sticker claiming that it has a speed governor that prevents it from doing over 80kms per hour. In spite of over speeding, it is flagged through several roadblocks after a brief stop. Chances are that the bus belongs to a police boss, or that the handshakes you see the conductor giving three traffic policemen are not actual handshakes. Behold, corruption is working non-stop.

Less than a kilometer after the roadblock, the bus loses control and plunges head-on onto an oncoming truck. Accidents are common in this place, which is a known black spot. However, all the relevant authority has done is to plant a sign reading “Beware, black spot”. Pray, what good does this do?

MISSING FILES

The hospital you are rushed too suffers the same deficiencies as the ones your mother was subjected to before your birth. There are no beds, there is no medicine and the doctor’s shift just ended, so he is not attending to any patients. You will have to wait for the doctor on duty, who is yet to arrive. You die an hour later unattended.

Your poor parents have been denied an opportunity to reap from the seeds of education they sowed in your 16 years of the difficult 8-4-4 system. The land in which you should have been laid to rest was grabbed long ago by a rich man who generously lined the pockets of a couple of individuals at the Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development. They contemplated going to court, but they had no money to pay a lawyer, and so they accepted and moved on. The only option is Lang’ata cemetery. But no, you are not about to rest in peace, even in death.

The cemetery, which opened its gates in 1958, is swollen beyond capacity. Still, this is where you will be buried. One grave here now carries three people, the six feet under principle having died 18 years ago, when the cemetery was declared full.

The tall flats of Eastlands’ principle of accommodating as many people as possible in a tiny space has been borrowed in death. You are buried three feet under, over two other bodies of Kenyans who proceeded you. This means that hyenas may soon come for your bones.

No peace. Even in death.

Your landless parents will not rest either. The government has been considerate enough to set aside money for the old. It is an ambitious project that is meant to make sunset years easier for elderly Kenyans in these tough economic times. The local chief will harass them into tracing their identification documents and providing copies of the same to register for the free money.

Poor them. Even after going into all that trouble, the chief will receive the money on their behalf and after faithfully giving it to them for two months, their file will disappear, and so will their money.

*******

MEGA DEALS 

Mega corruption scandals that had Kenyans sit up and take notice

EACC is yet to get to the bottom of the Sh791 million payout by the National Youth Service to fictitious companies. The scandal led to the stepping down of Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru. Ms Waiguru, political commentator Mutahi Ngunyi and businesswoman Josephine Kabura have all been questined by the EACC. None has been charged.

*****

Youth Fund

Before the dust from the NYS scandal settled, the news was awash with yet another loss of Sh180 million from the Youth Enterprise Development Fund, said to have been irregularly spent. The chair, Bruce Odhiambo, was earlier this months summoned by parliament to explain how this money disappeared.

Gender Affairs Cabinet Secretary, Sicily Kariuki, has since written to the president to suspend the embattled YEDF chairman. The inspectorate of State Corporations (ISC) had earlier recommended the sacking of the entire board.

*****

Chickengate Scandal

A year ago, two directors of a British company were jailed for bribing Kenyan officials, putting pressure on Kenya to investigate the involved officials. Nicholas Charles Smith, 43, was jailed for three years by the Southwark Crown Court for bribing officials of the Interim Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IIEBC) and the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) bosses to be awarded printing contracts.

His father, Christopher John Smith, 71, was sentenced to an 18-month suspended term for his role in the scandal, in which top IIEBC and Knec officials pocketed Sh50 million in bribes to award tenders to Smith & Ouzman Ltd.

Electoral Commission chairman Ahmed Issack Hassan was early this month questioned over the ‘Chickengate’ scandal as the anti-graft commission wound up investigations on the first case in the saga.

Several commissioners who served the defunct IIEC and some commission staff, including former  Chief Executive Officer, James Oswago have been grilled over the matter.

*****

Karen land

There is also the Sh8 billion Karen land scandal that led to the suspension of Land, Housing and Urban Development Cabinet Secretary, Charity Ngilu. A key witness, former Deputy Chief Lands Registrar, Geoffrey Birundi, died before testifying in the case.

The EACC had accused Mrs Ngilu of obstructing or hindering the collection of evidence in relation to the Karen land saga by directing Ministry of Lands officials not to release documents to its investigators or even record any statements regarding the matter.

In June 2015, Director of public prosecutions, Keriako Tobiko, directed that several senior Lands Ministry officials be charged with various offences in connection with the Karen land saga.

Those to be charged include the Chief Land Registrar, the Deputy Chief Land Registrar, the Senior Deputy Director of Survey and the Registrar of Titles as well as a director of M/S Telesource.Com Ltd.

*****

Anglo leasing scandal 

The Anglo leasing scandal may have been buried, but who can forget that Kenya forked out Sh1.64 billion for services not offered?

In March 2015, seven former government officials were charged in connection with the multimillion-dollar corruption scam.

The accused, including a former finance minister, Chris Obure (Currently the Kisii county senator), all denied charges of abuse of office and conspiracy to commit economic crimes and were freed on bail.

Anglo Leasing Finance was paid about Sh3.3 billion to supply the Kenyan government with a system to print new high-technology passports; other fictitious companies involved in the scam were given money to supply naval ships and forensic laboratories.

None of the contracts were honoured.

*****

Goldenberg scandal

Over Sh60 billion was lost through payments made for non-existent exports of gold and diamonds in the early 2000.

The Goldenberg scandal architect, Kamlesh Pattni, took advantage of the government’s export compensation scheme when he was only 25, creating powerful networks and reaping big.

Apart from Mr Pattni, those charged include former intelligence chief James Kanyotu, former treasury permanent secretary Wilfred Karuga Koinange, former central bank governor Eric Kotut and his deputy Eliphaz Riungu

Tens of other corruption-related incidents include Sh1 billion Uchumi supermarket book cooking, Sh34 billon siphoned from Imperial bank and the Sh200 million allegedly paid as bribe to Supreme Court judge Philip Tunoi by Nairobi County governor Evans Kidero to have a petition ruled in his favour.

Global consulting firm, Price WaterhouseCoopers (PWC) in its February 2016 Global Economic Crime Survey, says five in every 10 Kenyans, or 47 per cent of respondents, experienced an incident of bribery or corruption, pushing up the vices’ prevalence by 20 per cent, from 27 per cent in 2014.

 

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