Judiciary spending not beyond reproach

Like most other State departments, ministries or sectors of public service, the Judiciary is complaining that it has been given a raw deal by the National Treasury in terms of budgetary allocation.

On Tuesday, Chief Justice David Maraga said the Judiciary had been allocated Sh15.2 billion for the 2018/2019 financial year, saying the amount was only half of what it had asked for.

But just like other public departments, Judiciary has some explaining to do on how it utilised money allocated in the past. According to the Auditor General’s report for the year ended June 30, 2017, the Judiciary had failed to utilise its finances lawfully and prudently. In simple terms, money was either lost through dubious projects or wasted.

The Auditor’s report, for instance, points out that the utilisation of Sh80.5 million in the previous financial year cannot be explained. Cost of several ongoing and stalled projects was inflated or overpaid.

The scenario at the Judiciary is replicated in many other departments with varying degrees. Together, these reports point at a problem of wanton wastage or downright theft of public resources. They paint the picture of a country where the taxpayers money is fair game; where public officials and their private accomplices can loot without much consequences.

It is particularly depressing when the Judiciary, which should be playing a central role in the fight against corruption, is seen to be part of the pilferage and the impunity that feeds it. It can breed cynicism even among the most optimistic citizens.

Kenyans can only hope that the ongoing crackdown on corruption is a turning point in how public resources are handled. The unprecedented scale in arrest and prosecution of graft suspects should signal a new way of doing things in Kenya. It should herald the beginning of a culture of accountability and transparency and the end of impunity.

But that can only happen if the mass arrests and prosecutions are pursued to their logical conclusion and all those convicted of stealing from Kenyans made to pay for their crimes. The crackdown must also be blind to political, ethnic or other affiliation of the perpetrators. There should be no sacred cows.

That would be the only way to send a message to everyone that corruption, like any other crime, does not pay. Anything less would mean Kenyans will continue to greet the auditor’s reports with impotent rage.

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