The People’s Summit 

 

The Summit Background

The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) convened a people’s summit to commemorate the International Anti-corruption Day on 9th December 2016 at the Ufungamano House. The summit aimed at providing real opportunity for the public, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the government to engage in a political dialogue following revelations of unprecedented plunder of state coffers, coupled with the apparent lack of political will/interest to combat corruption. The summit brought together individuals committed to the anti-corruption agenda, who ventilated on a wide range of anti-corruption issues including; the increased number of publicly reported mega corruption scandals despite increased anti-corruption efforts in the legal and institutional realms, the ineffectiveness of anti-corruption agencies characterized by inability to prosecute perpetrators adversely mentioned in a series of scandals, the Auditor general reports and the disturbing confession by President Uhuru Kenyatta that he had got no bullet left to battle graft.

Participants from various parts of the country following the conversation during the people summit.

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The people’s summit was broadcasted live on KTN and was attended by more than 500 members of the general public, representatives of government institutions among them; the judiciary, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutor (DPP), Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA), the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR). A good number of national level CSOs were also represented including Africa Centre for Open Governance - AfriCOG, PAWA 254 and the National Integrity Alliance comprising of Society for International Development (SID), Transparency International-Kenya (TI-K), Association of Citizens Against Corruption (ACAC), Inuka Kenya Ni Sisi! Limited and Mzalendo Trust. The Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK) was also represented. Re-known Anti-Corruption crusaders spoke at the summit among them John Githongo and David Ndii.

Moderated by Yvonne Okwara, the summit took the form of dialogue between the speakers and participants. To initiate the dialogues speakers made brief remarks after which participants were allowed to engage directly either by making comments or by asking questions. The speakers’ panel comprised of Mr. David Ndii (Managing Director-Africa Economics), Mr. John Githogo (CEO-INUKA Kenya), Mr. George Kegoro (Executive Director-Kenya Human Rights Commission), Mr. Samuel Kimeu (Executive Director-Transparency International Kenya) and Ms. Elizabeth Kariuki (Programme Manager-KHRC).

 

Opening remarks

Mr. George Kegoro made the opening remarks; he welcomed everyone at the summit, highlighted the summit objectives and pointed out that the summit provided an excellent opportunity for both the public and the anti-corruption stakeholders to take stock of the gains made, challenges faced and to put in place new measures to combat corruption. He was pleased to note that the summit was being held on a day when the world was commemorating the International Anti-Corruption day, but emphasized that the people’s summit was remarkably different and departed fundamentally from the previous commemorations since it sought to engage the common citizens with the view of getting insight from them on how best to respond to the corruption menace in the county at both the national and county levels of governance.

 

Quantifying the loss through corruption and giving meaning to the public

Dr. David Ndii in his remarks on the above subject examined the economic consequences of political corruption. He painted a grimy picture of a county on death bed due to the continued wastage and squander of colossal amounts of state resources. He thus rallied everyone to take up the responsibility of fighting corruption and not leave the burden entirely to state agencies responsible for battling graft such as the Judiciary, Police, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Director for Public Prosecution.

He further observed that anti-corruption efforts in the country have witnessed the evolution of various terminologies such as the popular political vernacular that “no money was lost.” This terminology, he explained, is meant to create the impression that corruption only occurs when money is lost. Thus, if schemes are hatched leading to diversion of other types of resources, which are not money in nature, then no one should complain that there is corruption.

In Kenya, he observed, there is a misrepresentation that recurrent expenditure is bad while capital expenditure is good. As a result, Kenyans have a one sided understanding of the term development, which is why we witness industrial actions and strikes because of the failure to take care of the recurrent expenditure. Unlike money set aside for recurrent expenditure, those meant for capital development are easy to steal because we hardly nor do we feel the impact as compared to the former case.

Presently he noted the Jubilee government is spending more money to service debts than what it has allocated to cater for the recurrent expenditure. All these are as a result of misplaced priority in borrowing. For instance in the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), the “no money is lost” political vernacular has managed to delude Kenyans into thinking that SGR is such a beneficial project while in reality it will not benefit the country as much as is expected since it has created an avenue for looting.

 

A Political Analysis of the Corruption Problem in Kenya

Mr. John Githongo in his remarks on the above subject examined the systemic and structural causes of corruption with the view of finding out how best to combat corruption in Kenya. He began by citing the language dilemma as one of the major causes of laxity in the fight against corruption. He explained that people are more aware of words like “theft” and “stealing” as opposed to the word “corruption”. For instance if one was to shout, “mwizi” people are more likely to respond and condemn the act as opposed to if the same person shouted “mfisadi”. He thus opined the need to change the language when referring to corruption and simply refer to it as theft and the corrupt as thieves.

Mr. Githogo described Kenya as a country whose institutions and political leadership are captured. As a result despite the anti-corruption legislative overdrive, the country still witnesses mega corruption scandals and lose billions of tax payers’ money yet no single prime suspect is prosecuted.  He reminded participants that while we commemorate the International Anti-corruption day, we should ponder as to why Kenya became the first country in Africa to sign and ratify the UN Convention Against Corruption yet there is no touchable evidence of success in battling graft unlike some of the countries on the continent who signed and ratified much later than our beloved Kenya. He continued that the Kenyan culture condones corruption and as a result Kenyans forget that corruption undermines legitimacy of leadership.  In Kenya, he explained, corruption has morphed into plunder in which it has been normalised and it is supported virtually by political culture. He described the current jubilee regime as the worst in the Kenyan history premised on its reckless looting of public coffers.

 

Integrity Champions Award

The people’s summit also hosted the integrity Champions award 2016. The award aims at recognizing individuals who have excelled in upholding ethics in the conduct of their duties as public officers and community leaders who have provided leadership in defending the public interest against the interests of the corrupt.

This year one public officer and 4 community leaders were recognized for their outstanding courage and determination in confronting corruption. Bernard Muchere the internal auditor for the Ministry of health received the integrity champion award for exposing the loss of over 5 Billion shillings at the ministry of Health in what is now infamously known as the Afya house scandal. The four community leaders who joined Mr. Muchere in receiving the awards are; Boniface Mwangi, Wanjeri Nderu, Stellar Murumba and Winny Obure.         

 

Conclusion

The general consensus at the summit was that corruption is deeply entrenched in the Kenyan social fabric. Tackling it effectively requires a comprehensive overhaul of the anti-corruption system, a change in the attitude and character of the political leadership. Considering that most of the alleged grand corruption prime suspects have been exonerated through a sham process, while the government has failed to demonstrate greater transparency in procurement processes by not publicizing information on tender analysis, detailed contractor profiles including list of directors, engagement contracts and bills of quantities is a clear manifestation of lack of political will/interest on the side of the political leadership to combat corruption.

The president’s admission of helplessness, his inability to act, and the failure by the different state anti-corruption agencies to admit responsibility in the midst of wanton theft of state resources, is a clear indication of state capture. This situation underpins the need for collective popular campaigns against mega corruption in the country with the view of exposing and combating corruption at all levels of governance and hold all elected leaders accountable.

 

     

Medika Medi
Author: Medika Medi
Communications Assistant


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