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Professional bodies have a role to play in graft war

The battle against corruption in Kenya seems to have finally been fully enjoined.

The Head of State seems to have picked up the moment and is running with it. Sticking points still remain, and the spotlight is now firmly on the Judiciary.  The ruling by a court to suspend President Uhuru Kenyatta’s order for all heads of procurement and accounts in government ministries to step aside to allow fresh vetting is a big blow to the momentum this battle had started generating.

Even worse, was another court ruling that gave anticipatory bail to a key player in a major scandal where the government paid out Sh1.5 billion for land in Ruaraka. These have sent all the wrong signals about where the Judiciary stands in the fight against corruption. The Judiciary has for long been accused of being a stumbling block to this war.

Chief Justice David Maraga must quickly move to align the Judiciary with this battle, which it cannot be allowed to mess up. The fight against corruption must be seen as just the first step in the battle for a total cleanup of the ills that bedevil the country. This battle needs to be followed through until Kenya achieves total transformation.

The first cleanup needs to happen at the professional level. The President alluded to this in his Madaraka Day speech. Kenya is bedeviled with doctors, who give patients tests and medicines they do not need to make money, journalists who intimidate people so that they can blackmail so as not to scandalise them, engineers who subvert road designs so that they can secure private interests at the expense of the public good, or certify poor construction work.

A case in point is the design of the Sh8 billion Outer Ring Road that was supposed to decongest Eastlands. The engineers, who designed the road subverted the original design to “save” Taj Mall, resulting in a grotesquely poor road that has created even more problems than it was supposedly eliminating.   One can go on all day. All these are cases of fraud and corruption, and these people belong in jail! The flipside of this are those civil servants, who do not do their jobs.

These are malingerers, naysayers, those who need to be “induced” so that they can do what the public is paying them a salary every month to perform. These people are the reason why the performance of the public sector is so dismal. Traffic policemen who desert their stations, clerical officers who let files pile up while they sit chatting away and taking tea as the public waits for services.

The list is endless. As a recent visit by Interior Cabinet secretary Fred Matiangi, to Busia County Commissioner’s office recently clearly demonstrated, too many officers are doing a very poor job of serving the public. They deserve to be fired.

There is one critical constituency missing in action throughout this battle against corruption, yet it is the one that has the capacity to discipline most of these corrupt professionals. 

These are the professional bodies that regulate various professions in the country. How many times have you heard that the Engineers Board of Kenya (EBK) has taken action against errant engineers because of professional malpractice?

How many times have Kenyans heard of accountants being disciplined by the Institute of Certified Public Accountants (ICPAK) for cooking books of accounts, or quantity surveyors by the Board of Registration of Architects and Quantity Surveyors (BORAQS) for fraudulently varying bills of quantities to facilitate theft?   

How many lawyers has the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) struck of its roll of advocates for being caught up in corruption scandals? Many corrupt deals are facilitated by lawyers, and many times proceeds of corruption are processed through client accounts in legal firms.  

An even louder silence has been coming from the Kenya Institute of Supplies Management (KISM) that regulates the “profession” of procurement. Despite massive fraud perpetrated through Government procurement over the years, nothing had been heard from this body, not even a statement condemning corruption. Does it even have an anti-corruption policy?

This list is by no means exhaustive. Professional bodies must step up their game in the war against corruption. They need to put this issue on their front bumper, and integrate it in all their engagements with their members. 

They need to start making an example of their members who get caught up in corruption scandals. The day professionals fear sanctions from their regulators, a body blow will have been dealt to this scourge.

The work of professional bodies is not merely to collect subscriptions from their members and hold self congratulatory conferences and trainings.  The other body that really needs to wake up is the Financial Reporting Centre (FRC).

This is the body mandated to track all money laundering activities in Kenya, and report them to law enforcement agencies. Obviously, the billions generated in corruption proceeds must be laundered. Where is that money going? The answer to that question holds the key to unravelling graft in Kenya.

Is the FRC up to it, or are they also guilty of the other malady mentioned elsewhere in this article- failure by public servants to do their job?

Professional bodies and other regulators have been completely remiss in their mandates. For them too, the time to wake up is here. [email protected]

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