President Uhuru Kenyatta’s unprecedented decision last Thursday to call on public officials mentioned in a corruption report by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to step aside has whipped the local press into a frenzy. At present 27 percent of the Cabinet has heeded the president’s call and media outlets are currently leading with reports of who has and who hasn’t “stepped aside.”
Is there another sinister angle to the media coverage? In this piece Capt (Rtd) Collins Wanderi, the Chairman Kenya Institute of Forensic Auditors, weighs in with his experience of how embattled government officials have in the past relied on corrupt journalists and members of the civil society as their first line of defense against corruption allegations.
On 10th March, 2015 I wrote on my Facebook wall;
“Some infrastructure projects in Kenya began when somebody was the Chief Engineer Roads. He was later promoted to Permanent Secretary. Then the projects stalled and remain incomplete to date but the contractors were paid. He was promoted to something bigger by this regime and those projects are now buried and forgotten………This person may be a blue-eyed boy of the regime, but also its weakest link as far infrastructure projects are concerned. Due to the entrenched culture of “protectionism” and “I owe you; you owe me” in the public service, this person can never discipline juniors who worked with him before he was promoted, they know him, he owes them! Now you know why almost all infrastructure projects have virtually stalled; and, the cow-boy contractors are back in business!”
Only the most discerning of you got the drift of how this war on graft is being fought. The seemingly politically correct home boys and girls MUST be the first ones to go! The full list of 175 names, now public has already seen some suspects fighting back with the full support of the minority opposition, journalists and civil society activists on hire. Rogue journalists in local media are now abusing editorial privilege to question and attack the Presidency while tacitly glorifying corruption and defending the suspects who have stepped aside to await investigations. This is nothing but #BrownEnvelopeJournalism which reigns supreme in the so called “independent media houses” in Kenya.
In October 2005, the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission wrote a confidential report relating to #CorruptionInGovernment. The report named 115 senior public officers, including Senior Security Officers (Army Generals & police officers) suspected of corruption; fraud, embezzlement & abuse of office. Some were taken to court; the rest fought very hard and were actively helped by corrupt Journalists, tribal warriors, human rights activists and Judges of the High Court to “sanitize” their names. About 30 percent of the people who appeared in the 2005 report are now members of the current Parliament; Senate & National Assembly. A few of them are serving Governors. Tribal warriors in the mainstream and social media are now busy defending them!
The war against corruption in Kenya will never be won unless and until media houses deal with #BrownEnvelopeJournalism. Human rights, freedom of the press and independence of the media cannot be a justification for glorifying corruption and defending criminal suspects! When the dust on the current debate settles, we will embark on something even juicier: naming and shaming corrupt journalists. Having spent over 15 years in public service either prosecuting or investigating corruption and economic crime, I know far much more than the devious fellows defending and glorifying corruption in the name of press freedom will ever know. I will name and shame some, right here!
The author is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and the Chairman Kenya Institute of Forensic Auditors. You can follow him on Twitter @DecaptainCFE.