Unearthed scams show folly of political 'merit' in State jobs
- When they assumed the reins of power, the elite of the ethnic coalition neatly apportioned and doled out lucrative and key Cabinet and parastatal jobs mainly to the Kalenjin and the Kikuyu .
- As expected, the arrangement created multiple centres of power. When you have that, an environment for freelance rent-seeking becomes an inevitability.
The Kisumu oil jetty has been described as a bridge to nowhere.
Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) initially planned to spend Sh1.4 billion in building the bridge but ended up spending close to Sh2 billion on it. Many months after it was completed, it remains idle, sticking out like a cathedral in the desert, at a location on the shores of Lake Victoria.
This is because the Ugandans are yet to build their own to receive vessels ferrying petroleum products from Kenya. We have been left at the mercy and precarious benevolence of the Ugandans.
I will say no more about this project because it is the subject of criminal investigations. However, observers will be waiting and watching the court proceedings to see how it determines the issue of culpability. A story in the Daily Nation on Monday cited correspondence that showed that decisions to proceed with the project were made by higher authorities.
We are at a critical juncture in the anti-corruption war and learning lessons on the nexus between graft and appointments based on patronage. The grumbling and noise by a section of Kalenjin political elite about how anti-corruption institutions are targeting public servants from their community are just but opening salvos of the reverberations we must expect. Stand by for more factional intrigues within the ruling Jubilee coalition.
Yet, I don’t see the tempo of the anti-corruption crusade abating just because one side of the political coalition is loudly shouting about it.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has decided to throw his full weight behind the campaign. It is his response to the indiscipline and impunity that has been creeping back in the public sector over the past five or so years: The consequence of a very crass formula of patronage appointments the administration engaged in on coming to power.
You have to go back to the structure and contents of the unwritten pre-election deal that brought the coalition to power to appreciate how the whole thing ended up creating an environment where rent seeking became permissive.
The evidence is in the broad range of transactions that are now the subject of criminal prosecutions by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Noordin Haji.
From the National Cereals and Produce Board, KPC, Kenya Power, Kenya Bureau of Standards, National Hospital Insurance Fund and the Ministry of Health, or the National Youth Service, what you will observe is a situation where Cabinet ministers and top officers of parastatals recklessly engage in manipulation and mismanagement of tenders.
Large infrastructure projects created with good intentions are turned into vessels for opening kickback opportunities for the political elite. Questionable procurements and budgets for projects are revised and contract variations and escalations implemented arbitrarily to allow the release of billions of shillings to well-connected contractors.
But where did the rain start beating the administration?
When they assumed the reins of power, the elite of the ethnic coalition neatly apportioned and doled out lucrative and key Cabinet and parastatal jobs mainly to the Kalenjin and the Kikuyu — the two ethnic communities that formed the bedrock of Jubilee Party’s support.
As expected, the arrangement created multiple centres of power. When you have that, an environment for freelance rent-seeking becomes an inevitability.
President Kenyatta has now decided to send a potent message. As he completes his second and final term, he will not allow public officials to — in the name of party solidarity — continue engaging in corrupt practices. Political protection for rent-seeking has suddenly evaporated!
It seems the President has calculated that if he has to win the war on graft he must dismantle ethnic fiefdoms, cement personal power and settle the question about where ultimate political authority rests.
Part of the dynamics I have described was illustrated by the fight in May between factions of the coalition to influence the succession of the commissioner-general of Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), Mr John Njiraini.
One Tuesday, the board of KRA, under the chairman, Dr Edward Sambili, convened for a special meeting to send Njiraini on terminal leave. But it emerged that the board had already been dissolved.
One of the greatest impediments to economic recovery are projects started just to open kickback opportunities to the political elite. Systemic corruption distorts incentives, undermines institutions and redistributes wealth and power to the undeserving.
So, let the music play on.