ANY HOPE IN WAR ON GRAFT?

One good ex­am­ple is the case of for­mer El­doret South MP Peris Si­mam and her hus­band who were sen­tenced to 18 years in jail with an op­tion of Sh10m fine — the most sig­nif­i­cant sen­tence

The Star (Kenya) - - Voices - GRETTA FEN­NER Di­rec­tor, In­ter­na­tional Cen­tre for As­set Re­cov­ery

Talk­ing about cor­rup­tion in Kenya, the ini­tial re­ac­tion is al­most al­ways iden­ti­cal: Shak­ing of ones head — a query as to whether it’s get­ting worse than it ever has been and con­clud­ing with fears for the fu­ture. For a long time now, there are very few peo­ple who have any rea­son to feel any change, and sug­gest there are signs that things are get­ting bet­ter. How­ever, there are small signs that, in fact, there might be light at the end of the tun­nel. What started as a slow drip has turned into a gen­tle flow and if things con­tinue on the same course, it has the po­ten­tial to evolve into a proper tor­rent.

The Ethics and Anti-Cor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion, the agency man­dated to in­ves­ti­gate graft, has had a tur­bu­lent and trou­bled his­tory. For a long time, it was per­ceived as a blunt in­stru­ment al­lowed only to pur­sue those who were a threat to the gov­ern­ment in place, and with lit­tle fi­nesse. This stag­na­tion con­tin­ued up to 2013, when a se­ri­ous trans­for­ma­tion process started with the ap­point­ment of Halakhe Waqo and Michael Mubea at the helm, an in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment ex­pert and lead­ing lawyer re­spec­tively.

Since then, they have made ef­forts to re­form the agency and, de­spite highly pub­li­cised chal­lenges at the top, they have qui­etly been prob­ing cases and build­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s ca­pac­ity as a proac­tive and re­ac­tive in­ves­tiga­tive agency. The re­sults are al­ready show­ing.

Their in­ves­ti­ga­tions have pro­duced cred­i­ble cases which have been pros­e­cuted. Not many cases had reached that stage be­fore 2013 due to in­ac­tiv­ity since 2010. This year, for ex­am­ple, this has changed sub­stan­tially.

At the time of writ­ing this ar­ti­cle, there were 16 cus­to­dial sen­tences by the courts based on the in­ves­ti­ga­tions con­ducted by the EACC. From 2013, al­most 900 peo­ple are await­ing trial and the reg­u­lar covert op­er­a­tions are keep­ing the cor­rupt on their toes.

One good ex­am­ple is the case of for­mer El­doret South MP Peris Si­mam and her hus­band, who were on Oc­to­ber 7 sen­tenced to 18 years in jail or a Sh10 mil­lion fine — the most sig­nif­i­cant sen­tence that a pub­lic of­fi­cial in Kenya has ever re­ceived — for cor­rup­tion charges. She was found guilty of in­flu­enc­ing the award of a con­tract for road repairs and main­te­nance to a com­pany as­so­ci­ated with her hus­band.Never be­fore had an MP, or any se­nior of­fi­cial, been held ac­count­able in such a way.

This should send a strong mes­sage that pub­lic ser­vants are not im­mune to the rule of law.

Two weeks later, on Oc­to­ber 21, Jane Ngugi, a for­mer ac­coun­tant at the min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion, was sen­tenced to five years in prison for fal­si­fy­ing doc­u­ments to cover up the theft of over Sh8 mil­lion in fic­tional ex­penses for a work­shop.

One of the key fac­tors be­hind this surge is a change in tack, and a new and vig­or­ous fo­cus on fol­low­ing the stolen cash rather than prob­ing pro­ce­dural ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties. It is this change of tack that has pro­duced re­sults in cases that have dragged on for years. Af­ter so many years of in­ac­tiv­ity, there is now the like­li­hood that mil­lions in stolen, but now repa­tri­ated, cash will be used for health­care projects.

The Sh52 mil­lion re­cov­ered from Smith & Ouz­man, whose of­fi­cials have been jailed in the UK for brib­ing some IEBC of­fi­cials, will be used to buy am­bu­lances ac­cord­ing to the EACC.

In the past cou­ple of weeks, the EACC has made ar­rests at the Huduma Cen­tre in Kib­era and at the Spec­tre dis­tillery in Kisumu of of­fi­cials linked to cor­rup­tion deals. There is of course a long way to go. Bribery is a ma­jor prob­lem and ac­cess to ser­vices is still swiftest for those who pay ‘pri­vately’. But look­ing around this con­ti­nent, the signs of tan­gi­ble suc­cess are few and far be­tween.

We should be proud of these achieve­ments and see this light at the end of a long tun­nel as a goal we all should sup­port and work to­wards.

ONE OF THE KEY FAC­TORS BE­HIND THE SURGE IS A CHANGE IN TACK AND FO­CUS TO FOL­LOW STOLEN MONEY RATHER THAN PROB­ING PRO­CE­DURAL IR­REG­U­LAR­I­TIES

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