A new dawn has emerged in the anti-graft war in the country, causing panic amongst graft lords. Many are finding themselves having to forfeit their ill-gotten millions to the state, becoming instantly poor and dejected just as they had become instantly rich; something that was previously unheard of.
Just recently, Justice James Wakiaga of Milimani Court allowed the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to continue holding suspected proceeds of crime owned by Charles Muia Mutiso, the Deputy Director External Resources at the National Treasury. Mutiso is under investigations for allegedly amassing wealth through misappropriation and embezzlement of public funds. The preserved assets include Sh36 million held in various local banks, five land parcels spread in Nairobi and Machakos counties and one motor vehicle. The Judge extended the preservation order which had been issued in July 2020 for a period of three months to enable EACC to complete its investigations. The extended period will enable EACC to make recommendations on commencement of recovery of the assets and the money suspected to be proceeds of corruption.
In a previous case of corruption within the NHIF, one Fredrick Sagwe Onyancha, an office assistant, who lived a lavish lifestyle despite being a junior officer, was eventually caught by the long arm of the law. He was subjected to a lifestyle audit and like many before him, could not explain the source of his wealth. The Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) quickly moved to court and repossessed his house and other properties worth Ksh. 40 million, turning Onyancha into a derelict beggar.
These and more cases demonstrate that anti-corruption agencies are tightening the grip in the fight against corruption, turning the tide for illicit millionaires. Through them, the government so far has recovered Ksh 2.9 billion stolen from the public and redirected these to development projects to benefit the citizenry. Much more is set to be recovered as the fight against corruption continues steadfastly.
The work of Anti-graft agencies has been augmented by various legal provisions on illegally acquired wealth. Key among these is the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act of 2003 (ACECA). This act has boosted the fight against corruption by enabling the use of use of unexplained wealth orders which require persons suspected to have ill-gotten wealth to explain the sources of their riches. Unexplained wealth orders are based on the principle of accountability where one should be able to justify the source of their wealth, even producing supporting evidence if needed. Where this cannot be successfully done, the assets in question are deemed to be illegally acquired with the state allowed to confiscate them.
Further, the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) treaty which Kenya signed and ratified on 9th December 2003, expounds the legal basis upon which the government can pursue ill-gotten wealth by state officers. The treaty defines illicit enrichment under Article 20, as a significant increase in the assets of a public official that he or she cannot reasonably explain in relation to his or her lawful income.
It is encouraging to see anti-graft agencies actively utilizing the various provisions of the law on unexplained wealth to recover stolen public resources. They should continue to vigorously exploit this law in order to net even more individuals with illicit wealth and have the monies recovered back to the state for use in development. This would serve as a warning to those who raid the public coffers to enrich themselves at the expense of wananchi, thinking that the law will not catch up with them.
In so doing, Kenya will no be longer habitable for corrupt individuals. And citizens will no longer praise and clamour for ill-gotten wealth knowing that it is but a fluke whose price is too high to pay.