The corruption is in the budget

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By Ahmednasir Abdullahi, SC

In response to untameable graft in the Uhuru administration, some have suggested a government shutdown. Properly speaking, there’s no such thing, but the anger out of which the idea is borne is justifiable.

What would occasion a shutdown would be a refusal by Parliament to pass the recently tabled budget, and ours is too derisive do that: the corruption is in the budget, and that is where they thrive.

State and public officers can refuse to render services if they are not paid, which would paralyse operations, hence a shutdown of services. The President can also veto the budget Bill if he feels it provides too much loopholes for graft. This would initiate a shutdown, as there would be no legal backing to spend public money, even when it is allocated. Likewise, a conscionable legislature can refuse to pass the budget Bill for the President to sign.

In a tongue-in-cheek comment, University of Nairobi’s Professor Herman Manyora, quoting a Nigerian writer, told the BBC that corruption, after all, may be ‘essential’ for the survival of our disjointed African societies. Taking turns to eat provides the expectation that someday our turn will come.

Manyora’s sentiment could have been out of disillusionment, but it explains why, infused within the anger that Kenyans feel, is some sort of marvel – the idea that someone can steal billions from public coffers and get away with it. For lack of better phraseology, it is motivation to millions of other potential thieves.

What the President has outlined so far is a cache of political statements. For instance, how will the suggested lifestyle audit work when he is a target of that appraisal himself? Who gets to audit the First Family, as the Ruto camp has cheekily proposed?

What ideas could pass for actual solutions have come from Kenyans themselves, particularly on social media. It is why hashtags like #WeKnowYourSalary and #CorruptionKE have gathered such massive momentum. But even these won’t work; when one steals in the billions, it comes with immunity. And despite the fact that the courts lifted the ban on forced suspension and audit of procurement officers, it will amount to nought, if all the directive is, is a presidential proclamation.

To be frank, what we are experiencing are sideshows that, with some luck, will be eclipsed by man-made or natural calamities. We do not need anybody’s charity – not from the President, not from anyone.

When people are in power and want to hog it, they make suggestions which, upon closer inspection, actually make sense. Moses Wetang’ula once suggested the way to end corruption is to make it extremely painful. This is what Uhuru must do.

We are replete with laws and regulations which, if given half a chance to work, will do wonders for this country. All that the President needs to do is switch off his phone and let the Director of Public Prosecutions do his job. Nobody should be able to reach his office or handlers, and he must make it clear to the investigating and prosecuting agencies that he has their backs for the task at hand.

In the same vein, demands must not be issued to judges in the course of delivering their mandates. Let merit and the rule of law prevail; subjective emotion, however well intentioned, has no place in court processes.

The drive that DPP Noordin Haji has demonstrated must not be punished with haughty phone calls that deliver veiled threats. As well, we must be bold enough to have candid discussions on the role of impotent institutions like the EACC, an agency that has so utterly failed in its mandate owing to uninspiring leadership.

To reiterate, the corruption is in the budget, and the reason most MPs pass it without question is because they already have, in cahoots with AIE holders and procurement officials, already mentally embezzled those sums.

Which is why the allocation of Sh800 million for a clean-up of Nairobi River, for instance, for something the county government ought to do using money it already has from the taxes it collects, raises a red flag. There are thousands of others, but as long as the Parliament has got its salaries, perks and allowances – even when roles are replicated across committees – catered for, and the Judiciary subjugated, getting just one third of what it ought to receive, nothing else matters.

We all have roles to play in this war, but the buck stops with President Kenyatta. With a little goodwill and commitment, it is a winnable war. It is either that or, like the suggestion has been made, perhaps we really are okay with corruption, and everything else is background music. (

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