Reform DCI or forget war on graft altogether

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Two days after Anne Waiguru retired as Devolution and Planning Cabinet Secretary, President Uhuru presented a passionate speech about the state of corruption in the country, in which he gave ten broad action points which he intends to pursue to end graft.
Several theories have been proposed as to the motivation of that speech, and the reshuffling of Cabinet that followed a day later, not least that it was driven by Waiguru’s retirement – arguably his most powerful and trusted CS. Others have attributed to the Pope’s visit last month – he did give a similarly charged address to the country just before President Barack Obama’s visit. Granted, Uhuru’s aloofness to graft among his lieutenants had left even his own Central Kenya stronghold disillusioned, which speaks to the heights the vice had taken, and he feared that he truly might have already lost the 2017 election; However, we will go on and give the President  the benefit of doubt and assume he was earnestly doing his work, and that he truly does want to head clean cabinet and deliver on his pre-election promises.

Marking time
Two among Uhuru’s action points stood out: a commitment by the Chief Justice to establish an Anti-Corruption Division at the High Court, and a charge to existing anti-graft agencies – the EACC, DCI, DPP and the Asset Recovery Agency– to both begin prosecutions, and institute proceedings to recover stolen assets. And to demonstrate just how serious he was, he went on to declare corruption a national security threat, effectively roping in the National Intelligence Services in the fight.

Great actions points made, but with our irredeemably corrupt Directorate of Criminal Investigations Office, the President could find himself marking time. For as long as the DCI, formerly CID, has existed, its prefects have made it their business to ensure its officers wake up to serve Kenya’s elite. When its director Ndegwa Muhoro was called in to look the loss of Sh791 million at the NYS, he is said to have directed his investigators to report directly to CS Anne Waiguru, as he did himself. The right person to have received his reports was the DPP.

The DCI is the one body that can make all the difference in the fight against graft, but it remains unapologetically in service to the political-powerful and wealthy. Muhoro has been adversely mentioned in many of Kenya’s scandals involving the police, out of which, because of his connections and influence, he has always managed to extricate himself. So saying, the leadership of the DCI does not inspire confidence – especially because of its record in carrying out its mandate – or aspire to create change in how criminal investigations are conducted in this country.

Frustrate pursuit of justice
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keriako Tobiko, for example, is on record as saying the DCI has regularly frustrated his office in the course of pursuing civil and criminal justice, either through creating bureaucratic roadblocks in the search for evidence, or deliberately and systematically standing in the way of investigations. Numerous court cases – civil, criminal and those involving economic crimes – have been thrown out or declined by courts on technical grounds or owing to lack of evidence and/or shoddy investigations – with regular, albeit indirect, admonishes from judges that investigators could have done a more diligent job.

Like in most other sectors, appointments to the DCI are made on the basis of loyalties to the powers that be – a look at the history of appointments since independence will reveal special links between the heads of the police, DCI and National Intelligence Service.
This is especially unfortunate when it happens at an institution as sensitive as the DCI, where top officers – when they are not subjected to proper vetting or when it is tailored to suit certain predetermined candidates – use their positions to trade in intelligence which they can use to blackmail, extort and manipulate.

Our justice system flawed, but a huge portion of this is attributable to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations. As the President rightly noted, Kenyans, for the first time in decades have at their disposal strong tools to demand accountability. The DCI is a good place to start.

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