Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Mr. President: Give The Nation A break

This piece by Adongo Ogony appeared on Sunday Times(KT)(July 25,04)

If the Kibaki government were a person I would compare it to a smoker who has been told by his doctor that he has a deadly lung disease and has to quit smoking or risk his life but instead of doing what the doctor said the smoker pretends to quit and continues smoking.

For an individual it would be suicide by choice, for a country it spells a national catastrophe. The latest gimmick of a National Anti Corruption Steering Committee coming on the heels of donor revolt against graft under the very nose of the president would be laughable if it weren’t such grim times for the nation.

First of all what is the committee going to do that all the myriad anti-corruption outfits can’t do? Weren’t we told that having John Githongo as the PS of Ethics and Governance right in the Office of the President will empower the war on corruption? How sad is it that, months since the Anglo Fleecing scum broke out and despite all the promises Mr. Githongo so far has absolutely nothing to tell Kenyans. Is he going to be more effective as a member of this moribund committee? Mr. Githongo wasn’t even allowed to sit in the meeting between the President and EU envoys to talk about corruption.

Does this committee have the power to subpoena people to appear before them? No. If Mwiraria couldn’t bother to appear before the Public Accounts Committee, which is a body of the National Assembly, will he ever bother to deal with this committee? In the meantime we cannot even get a Director for the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) whose budget we are told has been cut.

It is now obvious that some people are hell bent to ensure that Justice Ringera gets the job at the helm of KACC. Gosh I didn’t know that as part of our deal with the Narc regime we had to get high profile jobs to all the partners in the Kamau Kuria, Kiraitu Murungi and Ringera law firm. Was there some secret MoU with these three guys? Enough is enough folks. Look at the circus in parliament with the mighty power barons going down to the wire to get Ringeria the job. What is in it for them? Why the intimidation for ministers to support this guy? I’ll come to that later.

We are beginning to look like George Bush with his war with Bin Laden. Instead of chasing Osama, Bush is beating all over the bush starting phony wars that doesn’t help his cause and in the meantime there are a million committees and commissions trying to find ways of stopping Osama. And what does Bush tell Americans? “We are still going to get hit”. Bush has allowed Osama to run the politics of the mighty United States and it seems to me in Kenya we are running the risk of having this corruption business run or to be more precise ruin the country. This has to stop.

Kibaki seems to have good intentions but he is running around in cycles and sending the country into a dizzying spin when everybody knows we need real action on corruption not a thousand committees/commissions and a million promises. The other day I almost collapsed in laughter when the President talking at the national conference on roads said in future the government will tell the public how much money has been given out for roads so we the people can audit work done. I thought to myself how would we do this. Will members of the public go to the roadside interview labourers and contractors asking how much money they are paid, then calculate the cost of materials etc and determine if the roads are worth it?. Lets stop beating about the bush. Here are a few clear cases that the president should act on right now if he is really committed to rooting out corruption.

Please Mr. President make public the Kiptoon report that detailed the “cowboy contractors” and other corrupt activities in roads and public works. We know that this report was prepared despite very intensive objections from your Minister for Finance Daudi Mwiraria who actually refused to fund the group claiming he was already doing his own study. The report is now ready. Shouldn’t the public know who these fraudsters are? We need this report out right now and lets see some action done in relation to it. Holding the report gives the impression the government is protecting some of the elements named in it. We do not need a Steering Committee to make the report public.

It is embarrassing to have EU envoys telling the government to release its own report to the public. And some people have the nerve to ask Clay to provide evidence. Why are we hiding evidence of corruption and asking for it at the same time? We want to know if some of these contractors have been paid despite the report and also if any of them are still dealing with government. Some of the contractors are reported to owe the Kenyan taxpayers billions they received for work not done. Are we going to collect this money before we go bowl in hand to the donors? It was interesting to hear the president responding to the speech by Mr. Quince, the EU representative demanding the release of the Kiptoon report by saying the government is going to prosecute those who steal money meant for roads. How do we do that when someone doesn’t even want the public to know who these people are?

Secondly Mr. President, Mwiraria needs to be at least suspended to facilitate full investigations on the Anglo scum. This is not rocket science. The man has been in charge of the Treasury as the whole thing exploded. Between him and the new government spokesman they do not even know how much money has been returned and by whom. Either Mr. Mwiraria is supremely incompetent which can’t be because he is known to be very hard working or he is being a little stingy with the truth. Either way he needed to be out of that office yesterday. This is not playing politics it is simple common sense. Continuing to defend this man means you are turning your back on the populace of Kenya Mr. President and this is not good.

We have been told that Meru tribal leaders have promised fire and brimstone should Mwiraria be removed but the president has to decide whether to serve the interests of Meru tribal leaders or that of the whole country, which incidentally includes the Meru folks as well. The whole country should not suffer because of a few sacred cows. The president can give the man another job. If Mr. Mwiraria has any conscience he should submit his resignation letter to the president pronto otherwise it is your call Mr. President.

I think Prof. Ayang’ Nyongo would be an ideal candidate to replace Mwiraria and actually he can combine the ministries of national planning with finance, the two go together. Nyongo is well respected. He has proved to be above the regular hecklers on both sides of the Narc games. This is the man who could save us from the imminent chaos in front of us. With almost 4 million people facing death by starvation and many more on the line, this is not the time to dither with committees and commissions. When your house is burning you don’t sit down to remove the thorn on your foot. You stop the fire and then you would have plenty of time to remove that pesky thorn.

Third we have Mr. Murungaru our minister in charge of National Security under whose docket the whole Anglo scum was operating. I think it really embarrasses the government that a person with this huge responsibility makes a mess of himself the way Murungaru did with that nonsensical press conference he held in his office. The conference where both local and international journalists were in attendance turned into a ridiculous fiasco when an arrogant Murungaru refused to answer questions declaring “ today I am going to have it my way” Why call the press conference in the first place? I would care less for the press conference whose purpose apparently was to keep beating the “Kanu is the devil” drum. The issue for me is that for a thorough investigation to be done, Murungaru has to step a side. Otherwise we are simply making a mockery of the fight to end corruption.

By the way wasn’t it hilarious to hear Murungaru telling media folks that he has the names of those involved in the Anglo scum but he cannot give the names because it is against the law. Which law is that? Does anybody know? Is there a law in Kenya prohibiting the government from naming companies or individuals they are dealing with? If this Murungaru gig was supposed to be a PR exercise to save his face it backfired. What else is new?

Fourth we need to see some action on all the grabbed land and properties. What happened? Did they all return the land and properties in secret? So far only the case against William Ruto and a few others are in process. Are these the only people who stole public land and properties? Do we have to wait for Clay and company to tell us what to do with land grabbers? Or may be once again we should ask Clay for some hard evidence. How laughable. Why did our political leaders stop the action on property on bypass roads? How silly is it that the government stages some dramatic demolitions to attract attention then abruptly stops and the bypass roads are nowhere to be seen? How can the public have confidence in such a government?

In my opinion what is lacking in this war against corruption is political will by the highest offices in the land. We can form twenty committees and name a million anti-corruption czars, particularly those who are friendly to the powers that be, but until there is real commitment to genuinely fight corruption we are fooling ourselves.

In the meantime if we blow our relation with the donors we are cooked. I am personally not a worshipper of foreign aid and loans. On the contrary I know they are not a solution to our problem, but looking at the economic situation things couldn’t be tougher. In the last budget we are banking on something like Kshs 56 billion from the donors.

We also projected a 4.5% economic growth, which is a pipe dream. If we don’t get money from the donors we are going to have trouble even paying the civil servants and most of our minimal development projects will be stalled almost permanently. This is why I am saying knee-jerk reactions won’t help.

One last thing if I was the president I would not choose Mutava Muysimi as the Chair of the Committee. Mutava is a good guy and a Christian to boot, but it is not a secret that he is one of the State House hung a rounds who have been recruited in the war to rubbish the Bomas constitutional effort. Having been one of the prominent architects of the Bomas model of constitution making, his turn-coat behaviour betrayed him as a person with no principles willing to go with the highest bidder. I could be wrong but he does not inspire a lot of confidence in many people including myself but it doesn’t matter to me because this whole Steering Committee business is just one of the many cruel jokes we are having in this phony war against corruption.

The general feeling among the public is that the top people including the president himself are protecting the bad guys who may be giving kickbacks just like in the previous government. When these same leaders insist on choosing their well-known buddies whether it is Mutava Muysimi or Justice Ringera to lead the anti-corruption campaign it is hard not to believe that they need people beholden to them who can protect their interests. It is like sending the fox to investigate the noise in the hen house. Is the fox going to rat on another fox? This may just be perception but seeing how determined the Ringera support club is for example, that perception is getting too frighteningly close to reality.

It would be crazy for example to make Hon. Nicholas Biwott the Chair of the Ouko Inquiry even though Mr. Biwott like he has said so many times may have absolutely nothing to do with the gruesome murder.

Why do the Kibaki people insist on reinforcing the perception that some power brokers in government are covering their backs in the new corruption rampant under the Narc government?

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