The fight against corruption received a boost this month, with the conviction of the former Sports Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario, who was found guilty of corruption and abuse of office in relation to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games sting.
Mr. Wario who was accused alongside Stephen Soi, a former National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) official, was found guilty of willfully failing to comply with applicable procedures relating to the management of public funds alongside his co-accused.
In particular, Wario is said to have taken advantage of his office and added three more persons to the Team Kenya list (after the accreditation deadline) and had them paid allowances.
The courts imposed on him a fine of 3.6 million shillings or a six-year jail term in default of the fine. Wario chose to pay the fine and was seen existing the courts a free man, just hours after his sentence was delivered.
To some Kenyans this hurried payment was a slap on the wrist by the courts who have been accused of their lackluster approach to the fight against corruption. To others however, the fact that a high level individual like a former Cabinet Secretary can be charged and prosecuted is good enough in waging war against graft.
There is however, an additional nexus to this story that must be exploited. There are a number of pubic servants who intend to leave the service, to vie for political seats as in 2022 general election. It is rumored that majority are raiding public coffers through fictitious tenders and other deals in a bid to finance their forthcoming campaigns. No amount is too little in this haste to secure their political futures, and even the office tea and newspaper allowances are not being spared.
Previously, we have witnessed situations where former public servants assume political office, after financially destroying the institutions they led before the campaign season. Many have then gone ahead to use their political power to interfere with investigations, including destroying evidence and buying or intimidating potential witnesses, some of whom were their former colleagues in the service.
The impact of this state of affairs is that corrupt officials can get away with pubic plunder while damaging their country’s economy, institutions and global credibility. Politics is then also, seen as a tool to defeat justice as opposed to an opportunity to serve the people. This relationship between corruption, politics and public service, eventually hurts the country and its future generation.
It is therefore, important that we remain vigilant and steadfast as a community in our fight against corruption. In a few months, some public servants will be presenting their papers to varied electoral institutions for consideration including the EACC and the Registrar of Political Parties. These institutions must look into the aspiring politician’s adherence to article 10 and chapter six of the constitution both which outline the value systems and leadership ethos held by the applicants.
Some of the key questions to be asked are whether they uphold transparency and accountability in their day-to-day to dealings? Have they brought honor and prestige to their offices while in public service? Most important, what is their source of wealth and how are they financing their campaigns?
Our institutions cannot however, do this on their own. It is important that we support them in their undertakings, by providing the necessary information as and when it is needed. In the ensuing situation, it helps to raise an alert if a public servant, a boss or a colleague, is siphoning public funds for future campaigns. The accountability institutions have provided avenues for such reporting and often times, the complaints are considered during vetting processes.
Indeed, silence is not an option as we strive to protect our national integrity. Accordingly, that troublesome link between corruption, politics and public service, must be broken if we are create a sustainable environment for our future generations.