Corruption Will be the Undoing of Africa if not Tamed

Kenya joined her African counterparts to observe the 6th Africa Anti-Corruption Day on Monday since its establishment in 2017. The theme of this year’s edition couldn’t be more relevant as it focused on the strategies and mechanisms for the transparent management of Covid-19 funds. It is a fact that the continent and globe are still recovering from the impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic that disrupted government operations and economies in 2020.

However, mismanagement of Covid-related funds seems to be a recurring theme in different African states including Kenya. At the height of the pandemic in the country, Ksh 7.8 billion meant to address Covid-19 and its effects in the country was misappropriated. By the time the 12th Parliament was ending its tenure, the matter was still unresolved. The KEMSA graft came at the expense of Kenyans’ lives. From low hospital capacity, lack of hospital equipment and protective gear for medics who were not only overwhelmed by the pandemic but bore the brunt of the virus.

Arguably, majority of the deaths, especially of health workers could have been avoided had the necessary interventions been put in place in good time.  

“Corruption is paid for by the poor,” said our Executive Director, Caroline Gaita during a Civil Society Parliamentary Engagement Network (CSPEN) engagement with members of the Kenyan and Zimbabwean Chapters of the African Parliamentarians Network Against Corruption (APNAC). Her sentiments ring true because similar to the KEMSA scandal, previous graft cases have robbed majority of Kenyans their right to accessible and affordable public services while enriching a few.

As of June last year, the United Nations estimated that Africa loses $88.6 billion annually in illicit financial flows. That translates to 3.7% of Africa’s gross domestic product and almost triple the national budget of Kenya. It is also estimated that Kenya has lost more than $10.6 billion in illicit financial flows since 1970. It is no surprise that Kenya lags behind in terms of development despite commitments by past regimes to fight corruption.

For instance, the Jubilee Party in 2017 announced a number of strategies to lower corruption and its impact on service delivery. Among them was automation of public payment systems, protection and reward frameworks for whistleblowers, publication of procurement awards of major government projects at the end of each financial year, elimination of gangs to enhance business operations and cultivation of service leadership. However, the implementation of these strategies has either been dismal or non-existent.

In Nairobi County, for example, rogue county officials and police officers have been known to extort and harass small business owners. Very few Kenyans would also agree that service leadership was properly demonstrated in the past five years by leaders of both sides of the divide. A good number of laws, policies and orders, that have had grave implications on the ordinary Kenyan, have been passed. The legacy scorecard of the 12th Parliament shows a House that was beholden to the Executive at the expense of Wanjiku’s pressing needs. The blame doesn’t fall squarely on the ruling party but also the opposition coalition that had a duty to represent Kenyans’ needs and give an alternative voice.

It is indeed the season of promises and agendas as Kenyans head to the ballot which calls for sober politics. Political parties ought to make realistic and achievable goals as they seek to run government affairs. More importantly, citizens and other non-governmental bodies ought to stay vigilant and consistent in holding leaders to account. In the wake of the reality of devolved corruption, the Senate and county legislative assemblies ought to step up their oversight role where county governments are concerned.

At a regional level, Kenya needs to collaborate more with other member states of the African Union that have adopted the African Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption from 18 years ago. During a recent Africa Anti-corruption conference held in Rwanda, members states agreed to collaborate among anti-corruption agencies in Commonwealth Africa to enhance the capacity-building of investigators and prosecutors of corruption offences and to support the speedy and unfettered repatriation of recovered assets. Member states have a duty to not only commit to this but hold each other accountable when situations call for it.

Finally, there needs to be political good will to see a corruption-free continent. There are enough frameworks and laws to fight corruption but little implementation. The next set of leaders about to be elected om Kenya ought to recommit themselves to working for Kenyans transparently and uphold the values of Chapter Six. Additionally, they ought to have the courage to flag and fight graft. To you, the mwananchi, refuse to be a benefactor and enabler of corruption. The benefits are short-lived and rob you and the generations to follow of a dignified life.

Posted by Loise Mwakamba on July 13, 2022

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