However you look at it, graft stinks and just doesn’t pay

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Phoebe Nadupoi

Corruption scandals have become common place in Kenya. It is also apparent we lack the will to deal with the menace. The recent twist of events in the NYS saga has revealed we could be sicker than we imagine. The elaborate plan to cover up graft, if the allegations in the Josephine Kabura affidavit are true, is scandalous. The thought of public officers taking proceeds from corruption to compromise the system they should be safeguarding is, to say the least, despicable.

The tragedy is that we seem to lack the commitment to deal with graft with the precision it demands. Take the Judge Philip Tunoi case: the President had at first failed to form a tribunal to investigate the Supreme Court judge despite the Judicial Service Commission having found him, prima facie, to have a case to answer. He would later cave in to public pressure overnight, and constitute a team to investigate the judge, even as many blame his advisors for the goof.

As all this plays out on the national stage, young people are taking cue and, apparently, it is now fashionable to engage in graft. A recent study commissioned by the East African Institute of the Aga Khan University reveals that the youth – the future of this country if you like – are willing to be corrupt to get rich. The Institute commissioned the survey to understand aspirations, attitudes, concerns and values of Kenya’s youth. Half of the youth interviewed said it was immaterial how people made money as long as they did not end up in jail, with 35 per cent of the population (1,854) admitting they would easily take a bribe. How can you even blame them when corruption is the new buzzword in town?

Only sorry if caught

The attitude displayed by the young people shows that conscience died and was buried a long time ago. You only feel “guilty”, and maybe consequently “sorry”, if you are caught. In our insatiable quest and escapades to steal in well choreographed schemes to get rich quick, we only pray the system does not unravel our devious ways, and, even more importantly, for the power to influence the system.

One aspect that stands out in Josephine Kabura’s affidavit is her ability to mingle with the high and mighty. She is an ordinary woman but wields power because of her affiliations. If nothing else, the “business” she secured in the infamous NYS scandal is testimony enough. A friend in private practice often tells me how difficult it is to get business. They have to endure long dry spells before they can secure a single contract – and even then, not the multimillion type. The likes of Kabura get most of the work leaving the rest to scamper for the little that is left. In other instances, the Kaburas of this world get work even without the required competencies and in turn sub-contract their unlucky counterparts to undertake the work for a fraction of what they are paid.

Graft is not unique to Kenya. In fact, each country has its own share of greedy people. What differs, however, is the commitment to end the vice. Look at, for instance, what the President of Tanzania, John Pombe Magufuli, has done since assuming power. One bold step he took was to fire the anti-graft boss for sleeping on the job.

Far off, there is the case of American fraudster Bernard Madoff who was sentenced to 150 years in prison in June 2009. The “New York Times” reported: “Mr Madoff, looking thinner and more haggard than when he pleaded guilty in March, stood impassively as Federal District Judge Denny Chin condemned his crimes as “extraordinarily evil” and imposed a sentence that was three times as long as the federal probation office suggested and more than 10 times as long as defence lawyers had requested.” He had swindled unsuspecting people out of $20 billion (Sh2 trillion) in principal funds.

Even in the face of runaway graft, corruption, with its seemingly attractive package, is not what it seems to be. It is a sugar-coated bitter pill. Speaking to CNN in 2010, Madoff intimated that he cannot sleep as he is haunted by the suicide of his oldest son Mark which he confessed to have been responsible for because of his actions.

Although we may not have a typical Madoff story, it is still evident that those who engage in graft get punished. They cause their families untold suffering, and may end up developing lifestyle diseases or simply end up living like fugitives. Kenyan-born Ketan Somaia nicknamed, King Con, for instance, is behind bars in the UK for fleecing investors, and was ordered to pay his victims £13.5 million (Sh1.9 billion).

The Assets Recovery Agency has swung into action to recover money lost through the NYS scandal. Now, you may not be a prophet but I know it is not difficult to predict the future of those in the centre of this scam.

Writer is a communications practitioner; E-mail: pnadupoi@gmail.com

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