Government’s closet is full of skeletons, which include failed promises, mismatched priorities, utter arrogance and lack of strategy. But the ugliest of them all is corruption.
Government is yet to fulfil any of its anchor promises contained in the manifesto on whose premise President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto strode to power. Unlike President Kibaki who, within the first week of his swearing in, declared primary education free, Uhuru’s pet project, the laptops for class one pupils, are yet to get to the classrooms, three years on. The first lot that would have benefited from this project is now in class three. Should Jubilee, for argument’s sake, deliver in the last year of its term, and chances are that they will not, this lot will have moved to upper primary.
Electricity, which Jubilee promised to take to every home, is not only still a pipedream for the majority of Kenyans; it is also damn expensive, far beyond what it costs in neighbouring economies including Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia. No wonder our manufacturing industry is losing investors, existing and potential, to rival economies in the region.
Road infrastructure is the worst hit by Jubilee government’s lack of foresight to put the economy on the right track. It is disheartening. President Kibaki and the Right Honourable Raila Odinga’s coalition government had prioritised road infrastructure development, and one can only imagine where we would be as an economy if they had a second term in power.
One may argue that the Standard Gauge Railway is on track. The same is, however, fraught with corruption right from inception, leading to the commissioning of diesel-run locomotives when the world – again, consider Ethiopia – has since moved to electric locomotives. With the current clamour for a green global economy, it remains to be seen for how viable the project will remain relevant. The only road constructions going on are the left over’s from the previous regime. Suffice it to say that the speed to the said projects has slowed, presumably due to lack of funds. One example is the Outer Ring Road connecting Thika Super Highway to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport which should have been complete by now but which is just beginning. Its completion could take several years.
Leader or whiner?
The reason Jubilee has not delivered in the aforementioned, and in many other sectors, is because of runaway corruption. All of the Jubilees hyped projects were grounded due to corrupt procurement procedures. But 2015 has been Jubilee’s waterloo in governance in general, and the fight against corruption in particular.
For the better half of the year, the President came off as a whistleblower in the fight against corruption. Uhuru blew the whistle even on corruption happening in Office of the President. One got the feeling that the President forgot that he was President in certain circumstances. On the other hand, Deputy President, as with many other challenges afflicting the nation including insecurity, gave lip service to the war on corruption. As this happened, the lords of impunity in government looted public coffers dry.
In a clear indication that Jubilee Government’s strategy, if there was any in the first place, had neither head nor tail, the Executive, in a clear breach of the law, blackmailed the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to hastily hand over a list of public servants under investigation. The list, as one of the commissioners confessed afterwards, was cleansed to take care of State House’s blue-eyed boys and girls. Eventually the President handed the list to Parliament in a choreographed procedure amid pomp and applause. He managed to hoodwink not just the Opposition Members of Parliament to give him a standing ovation in his renewed onslaught on corruption but also the members of public. Consequently, in March, five Cabinet Secretaries from his own Cabinet, among other high-ranking mandarins, were forced to step down. They included Land’s Charity Ngilu, Energy’s Davis Chirchir, Labour’s Kazungu Kambi and Agriculture’s Felix Kosgei.
But that is as far as it got. Government went back to slumber land. In the meantime, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions preferred cheeky charges on the suspects of corruption, including obstruction of justice in the case of Charity Ngilu, in a scheme to clear them to resume office. Quietly, however, it was business as usual in government departments. Billions of taxpayers’ money was being looted day and night.
The National Youth Service (NYS) scandal that the Coalition for Restoration of Democracy (Cord) leader lifted the lid on to reveal the loss of Sh791 million shillings was only a tip of the iceberg. In fact, thorough investigations (which will not take place anyway) will reveal massive loot, far beyond the Sh791 million that is being touted. Then there is the Eurobond scandal in which government cannot present evidence showing how Sh140 billion of the Sh250 billion Eurobond was spent. Same government has since shifted gear. Reasons for which they floated the Eurobond are no longer being given as ones on which the money was spent. CS Finance Henry Rotich can take to the dogs his explanation that Sh140 billion was eased 2014-2015 fiscal year budget and distributed to various ministries. He says that without batting an eye when we know most of the services for which these ministries exist have been devolved to county governments. What is more, Rotich would later change his mind and say Treasury does not know how ministries spent the money. What cheek!
But what should worry Kenyans even more is the fact that much of the theft happening under Jubilee is going undetected. The two or three scandals raising heat that Cord has lifted the lid over are just what we know. Remember, this government has yet to investigate a scandal on its own volition. If anything, they, like in the NYS saga, have denied existence of any corruption until Opposition pushes it to a level they cannot withstand anymore. Even their skewed investigations, hell-bent on cover up, have always vindicated Cord. God help Kenya if this spills into 2016.
Then there is the obscene idea of invoking fellow leaders’ mothers in public spats to threatening public official to bend existing laws in their favour. That has been the modus operandi of majority of leading lights of Jubilee Coalition. The utter arrogance and display of opulence when the majority of Kenyans are limping under the weight of heavy taxation, to keep equally opulent government operation is what will finally push the last nail in this government’s coffin come 2017. Already signs are giving. That they lost to Opposition in the Kajiado Central by election after they gifted a Cord MP with a ministerial post is a sign of things to come.
Government cannot keep barking and engaging Opposition in a war of words – it is not how countries are run; instead, they can address issues raised so that Opposition has nothing to make noise about. For example, instead of dwelling on sideshows, they can tell the public in detail how Eurobond money was spent. Rather than deny existence of corruption whenever a whistle is blown, they should investigate and take action where any evidence is found and rather than go for the whistleblowers, they should treat them with respect and act on their fears, protect them from any possible harm by the lords of impunity. This would go a long way to embolden more people to lift the lid on mega scandals quietly going on in government departments. It is because of the kind of cockiness that government is exhibiting in dealing with serious issues that we are unable to make headway.
The over borrowing by this government with nothing to show for it in terms of development projects, the over 24 foreign trips the President has made in the past one year would be an overkill for me to reiterate here. So I will gloss over it, but the one thing I cannot and will not gloss over is the indecisiveness in the President’s manner of leadership. It has borne this country a great cost.
For over eight months, the President did not know what to do with the five Cabinet Secretaries he suspended over corruption allegations. In the meantime, they continued drawing salaries for which they offered no service. Key ministries like Energy, Land, Transport and Agriculture were the entire without substantive captains. That does not speak well of a President, indeed a government that has a clear roadmap to where it wants to steer the country to. Even more annoying is the fact that the President seemed to reawaken to reality only when Devolution CS Anne Waiguru bolted from Cabinet following sustained heat by Cord.
It is not until then that Uhuru Kenyatta swung to action and what seemed difficult to do previously was done in a day. All the five CSs on suspension, for instance, were suddenly fired and replaced within a week. It should be remembered that Waiguru had been shielded even from interrogation as a suspect as her ministry rocked with massive corruption. Should Waiguru have stayed put, would the President of the Republic of Kenya not have fought corruption in his government?
I may not entirely agree with John Githongo that there is no government in Kenya but a scandal, but more often than not his sentiment has rung true in the past year; that much I will admit. It is my prayer, for the love of my country, that 2016 will be different and that Jubilee Government will not need to be policed to deliver even on their own mandate and that where need for policing will arise, they will take it positively so together we may take Kenya forward. ^
Writer is Member of Parliament for Budalang’i Constituency