SA CAN WIN THE WAR ON GRAFT

Kenyan-born and raised fi­nan­cial ser­vices con­sul­tant and editor KC Rot­tok, a long-time res­i­dent of SA, com­pares how the coun­tries are far­ing against cor­rup­tion

CityPress - - Voices -

As a Kenyan, long res­i­dent in South Africa, I have watched the story of Nkandla and all that has fol­lowed with great in­ter­est. A ques­tion comes to mind: do South Africans re­alise that the sys­tem to op­pose graft is work­ing bet­ter than they think?

The Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor’s of­fice de­ter­mined that Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma ben­e­fited un­duly from amounts spent on non­se­cu­rity up­grades at his pri­vate home. The high­est court in South Africa, the Con­sti­tu­tional Court, reaf­firmed her rec­om­men­da­tion that he should re­pay a rea­son­able amount to the state. He has apol­o­gised and promised to pay the amount, as de­ter­mined by Trea­sury.

Zuma’s trou­bles ex­tend to al­le­ga­tions of “state cap­ture”, with re­cent re­ports about the Gupta fam­ily de­cid­ing on Cab­i­net ap­point­ments from their home in Sax­on­wold. Three banks and a big au­dit firm have parted ways with the Gupta-owned Oak­bay Group as a re­sult of the rep­u­ta­tional risk.

How­ever, in Kenya, for­mer pres­i­dent Mwai Kibaki re­tired from of­fice in 2013 and Trea­sury ap­proved the con­struc­tion of a post-re­tire­ment of­fice at a cost of R100 mil­lion. In ad­di­tion, the for­mer head of state had a brand-new ru­ral home built for him at a cost of R72 mil­lion in the cen­tral part of the coun­try. A re­port in The Stan­dard news­pa­per two years later in­di­cated that the 83-year-old and his fam­ily rarely vis­ited the res­i­dence.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion of Kibaki’s suc­ces­sor, Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta, has been de­fend­ing it­self against one cor­rup­tion scan­dal af­ter another. The most sig­nif­i­cant is a fail­ure to ac­count for the use of about R36 bil­lion raised on the Ir­ish stock mar­ket through a Eurobond floated soon af­ter Keny­atta’s elec­tion. For amuse­ment value, look no fur­ther than the de­vo­lu­tion min­istry that pro­cured 18 con­dom dis­pensers at R3 800 each and 17 ball point pens for R1 400 per pen. Even The New York Times re­ported on it. The con­sti­tu­tional body charged with in­ves­ti­gat­ing and prose­cut­ing in­stances of cor­rup­tion in Kenya is the Ethics and An­ti­Cor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion. It is highly in­ef­fec­tive, hav­ing failed to se­cure any high­pro­file con­vic­tion since the pro­mul­ga­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion in 2010.

Late last year, a bro­ker turned whis­tle-blower filed an af­fi­davit with the po­lice re­veal­ing his sta­tus as an agent of a judge of the Supreme Court in a bribery trans­ac­tion. The Supreme Court’s Jus­tice Kip­too Tunoi is ac­cused of hav­ing re­ceived a bribe of R30 mil­lion from cur­rent Nairobi gov­er­nor Evans Kidero for a favourable de­ci­sion in an elec­tion pe­ti­tion. Deputy Chief Jus­tice Kal­pana Rawal has had to de­fend her­self and her fam­ily af­ter their names ap­peared in the Panama Pa­pers.

The head of the Supreme Court, Kenya’s chief jus­tice, seems to be at his wits’ end. The highly re­spected head of the ju­di­ciary stated in a re­cent in­ter­view that Kenya is “a ban­dit econ­omy run on the eth­nic stock ex­change”.

The Kenyan pri­vate sec­tor is no bet­ter. A blog­ger re­cently re­marked that the best way to rob a bank in this coun­try is to own one. That ap­pears to have been the strat­egy of Ab­dul­malek Jan­mo­hamed, the ma­jor­ity share­holder of Im­pe­rial Bank, which went un­der in Oc­to­ber 2015. Court doc­u­ments re­veal that Jan­mo­hamed ad­vanced him­self huge sums of de­pos­i­tors’ money over sev­eral years. The re­main­ing share­hold­ers are now su­ing the bank’s au­di­tors for pro­fes­sional neg­li­gence. An email trail be­tween a spa re­sort in Thai­land and Jan­mo­hamed’s of­fice re­veals he was re­spon­si­ble for some of the ex­penses in­curred by the wife of the then cen­tral bank gov­er­nor while she was on hol­i­day in the Far East coun­try.

When it comes to the in­tent and abil­ity of in­sti­tu­tions to dis­charge their man­date, there is a clear con­trast be­tween South Africa and the rest of Africa. While South Africa’s Trea­sury is as­sist­ing in the re­cov­ery of funds that un­duly ben­e­fited a sit­ting pres­i­dent, Kenya’s Trea­sury sees no is­sue with rec­om­mend­ing the con­struc­tion of a brand-new home and of­fice for a re­tired head of state. While the in­sti­tu­tion charged with check­ing mis­man­age­ment of pub­lic funds in South Africa is in­ves­ti­gat­ing and im­pli­cat­ing the most pow­er­ful man in the coun­try, Kenya’s equiv­a­lent can’t bring a pro­cure­ment of­fi­cer in a gov­ern­ment depart­ment to book.

There is no bet­ter il­lus­tra­tion of the in­de­pen­dence of the South African ju­di­ciary than a rul­ing that does not favour the head of the ex­ec­u­tive. The judg­ment was a ma­jor win for the Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor, whom Chief Jus­tice Mo­go­eng Mo­go­eng de­scribed as “one of the most in­valu­able con­sti­tu­tional gifts to our na­tion in the fight against cor­rup­tion”.

His Kenyan coun­ter­part, by con­trast, is de­spon­dent. One of his fel­low judges in the high­est court in the land is fac­ing bribery charges while another, his deputy, faces a cred­i­bil­ity cri­sis fol­low­ing the Panama rev­e­la­tions.

It would be unimag­in­able in Kenya that banks would refuse to pro­vide ser­vices to busi­ness as­so­ci­ates of the head of state. In­deed, po­lit­i­cally con­nected in­sti­tu­tions en­joy pre­mium ser­vice.

There are many who moan that South African in­sti­tu­tions are un­der threat from the un­scrupu­lous. I dis­agree. I be­lieve the re­cent events around Nkand­la­gate il­lus­trate the strength that stands be­tween our present en­joy­ment of so­cial jus­tice and the wor­ry­ing state of af­fairs in other African coun­tries. Rot­tok, a char­tered ac­coun­tant and au­di­tor, is the man­ag­ing

editor of The African Pro­fes­sional mag­a­zine

For­mer pres­i­dent Mwai Kibaki’s R72 mil­lion house

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s R246m home­stead in Nkandla

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.