Story by LUKOYE ATWOLI
Publication Date: 7/7/2008
WHEN THE GRAND COALITION Government was sworn in a couple of months ago, they promised Kenyans that despite the bloated size of the Cabinet, they would do the right thing to bring the country back on its feet economically and in other spheres.
They promised to rein in corruption and improve the business environment to achieve huge levels of economic growth. Kenyans were promised that any public official on whom even the mere suspicion of corruption was directed would be relieved of his or her duties.
Given the nature of the recent scandals and the personalities involved, it must be reasonably expected that in the coming days we will have a new Finance minister, governor of the Central Bank and other senior civil servants at the Treasury.
This is the big test for the grand coalition. If it fails in this, all its members will lose legitimacy in the eyes of the common citizen, and all talk about vanquishing corruption will be rightfully dismissed for the hot air it is.
It is not enough, or even exculpatory, for a minister to purport to ‘‘blow the whistle’’ on a Cabinet colleague. It is worse than tragic for the fellow on whom the whistle has been blown to go to the press to ‘‘praise’’ the whistle-blower while in the same breath defending the illegal sale of public property.
It betrays a view of the common citizen as a blundering fool who will accept anything from those in Government despite the contrary evidence.
Why was it necessary to complete the Grand Regency deal with such haste and secrecy? Why the apparent lies about the buyers and the amount paid for it? Why the use of force and threats to public servants in order to register the sale and transfer of ownership?
FOR GOVERNMENT TO BE SEEN TO be working, these issues must be resolved at Cabinet level, the culprits identified and punished, and the entire Cabinet speak the same language about corruption and good governance.
That being the case, Mr Kimunya will find it increasingly difficult to explain away the sale of the Grand Regency.
The minister is still grappling with public discontent over the handling of the Safaricom IPO and the refund process, and another scandal concerning printing of currency lurks in the shadows. There is no way he can remain in Government while these issues remain unresolved.
Whether there are others involved in these scams or not, he must be the first casualty. If this does not happen, then any other minister who shares a Cabinet meeting with him must be deemed to be guilty by association. None of them will retain any moral authority with which to rant and rave about official corruption or poor governance.
An argument that is beginning to gain currency is that these scandals in the financial sector are all machinations aimed at burying the debate over taxation of MPs’ allowances by deflecting attention to other matters that will keep the minister busy.
That may well be the case, but we must, in the Prime Minister’s words, be able to chew gum and ascend a flight of stairs at the same time. We can keep an eye on the MPs to ensure they pay their taxes while at the same time ensuring those that insult the taxpayer by selling our property for a pittance are held responsible.
Dr Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and lecturer at Moi University School of Medicine.