The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission’s success in recovering millions of shillings from a former Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) employee who could not explain the source of his “instant” wealth is a glimmer of hope in the war against corruption.
In particular, the case strengthens the argument for lifestyle audit of public officials, particularly those who hold powerful positions and those who serve in public corporations and agencies which have for long been considered cash cows for the corrupt.
Such agencies include KRA, the Kenya Pipeline Company and more recently, the National Youth Service. The ongoing crackdown at KRA on employees suspected to be aiding tax evasion shows the case mentioned above is by no means isolated. The rot runs deep.
Lifestyle audits would not only bust the corrupt and serve to discourage officials from deviating from the path of integrity, it would enhance the efforts to recover stolen public resources. What’s more, it would send a clear message to the corrupt that they will not be allowed to enjoy their ill-gotten wealth.
Kenyans had a glimpse of what lifestyle audit would entail during the vetting of police officers. The vetting blew the lid off the kind of unabashed corruption in the service, junior and senior officers included.
The mandatory wealth declaration by public officials was also meant to serve the same purpose — uncover or deter unusual or unexplained acquisition of wealth. Unfortunately, the practice has not been an effective weapon as was projected in the anti-graft war.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s order for lifestyle audit seemed to have quietly fizzled out partly because of the lack of legal instruments and structures to support such a wholesale exercise. There were also complaints from certain quarters that the audit was not in good faith and that they were targeting some politicians.
Yet there is no denying that the efforts to eradicate corruption in public offices would not go far without lifestyle audit. It is for that reason that the government should clear any hurdles that would stand in the way of the President’s order.
For one, watertight laws and institutions that would facilitate the audits must be enacted. Secondly, there is need to demonstrate that the proposal is not politically-instigated or driven by malice, by ensuring that all, despite their status, political persuasion or any other consideration, are subjected to the audit.