Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission as a tool for settling polical scores

Only in Kenya can the war against corruption be reduced to a juvenile shouting match between factions in government.

It is not about fighting corruption, but about everyone conceding they are corrupt, then trying to justify themselves by saying the other fellow is more corrupt. The other absurdity is the numerous anti-corruption and oversight agencies that litter the corridors of power forgetting their key mandates and willingly allowing themselves to be used as pawns in the "you are also corrupt" finger-pointing games.

Watching Parliament live on TV last week, I was rather impressed with the heartfelt statement by Deputy Prime Minister and Local Government minister Musalia Mudavadi in trying to clear his name over the very grave cemetery land scandal devised and executed by his ministry in conjunction with the City Council of Nairobi and the Ministry of Finance. Some of it was the usual "it wasn’t me", "I didn't know" and "political enemies out to finish me" variety. That is standard fare from any official accused of corruption. But then Mr Mudavadi did also illustrate quite persuasively how the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission sought to besmirch his name by distributing an incomplete and probably half-baked report based on mere rumour and supposition.

It would seem that the report was deliberately leaked to the media either by KACC or by one of the recipients of the incomplete report, the Office of the President. The other recipient was Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who it is presumed would not have been interested in leaking the report, seeing as he was in Mr Mudavadi’s corner in this fight.

If indeed the KACC is leaking suspect documents merely to besmirch ODM leaders, that is a severe indictment on an agency that has the peculiar record of never securing a single important conviction in the war against graft.

That particular war has been as phony as the KACC leadership, and an urgent investigation is required to establish whether the agency has been embedded into the propaganda war directed by the PNU machinery at the Office of the President machinery.

In an environment where even newspapers in a government office can be stamped Top Secret, leaks are essential to news gathering and the publication of stories exposing corruption in high places. KACC, therefore, must not besmirch the honourable action of leakage.

If the issue is a partisan approach in the war against corruption, then Mr Odinga might have started the ball rolling with his abortive suspension of Agriculture minister William Ruto and Education minister Sam Ongeri over unproven allegations. For the record, many Kenyans believe that the two should have gone home. President Kibaki has himself stated publicly that any minister facing credible suspicion will have to step aside.

To that extent, Mr Odinga might easily have been implementing the Kibaki policy in trying to suspend Mr Ruto and Prof Ongeri.

The problem is that he was seen to be targeting ministers only from the other side of the political divide. This gave his foes every excuse to leak the audit report, that had been conveniently "sat on", that fingered key officials in the PM's office on the same maize scandal on which Mr Ruto was being nailed.

Note, however, that Mr Odinga never presumed to sack Mr Ruto and Prof Ongeri. He only wanted them out of the way while investigations were completed, and if given a clean bill of health, he explained, they could resume their jobs.

A very good policy, I must say. And if the need to take political responsibility applies to Mr Ruto and Prof Ongeri, as it should, then there is no reason why it should not apply to Mr Mudavadi.

However when it comes to his key ODM ally and party deputy, Mr Odinga suddenly backtracks on his own doctrine and instead becomes Mr Mudavadi’s advocate. Now we are seeing a full-scale war where rival arms of government are busy fishing out evidence of corruption by key figures on the other side.

This frenzy is not grounded on morality, but is merely a cheap political war. If the KACC has been drawn into the battle, it will not be long before the Auditor-General, the Attorney-General, the Efficiency Monitoring Unit, the Inspectorate of State and even the police and the security intelligence are all reduced to political propaganda foot soldiers.

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