By Wendy Mangale
The Press Club, which had been locked down since March by the Covid-19 pandemic, resumed its activities in September with its eyes sharply trained on a different kind of virus — Kenya’s “corruption virus”. To lead the charge, the Kenya Editors’ Guild had invited the Chief Executive of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, Mr. Twalib Mbarak to its 11th forum. And he did not disappoint.
The Commission, he said, was focusing on asset recovery and was already in the process of recovering from State officers unexplained wealth amounting to Kshs2.5 billion. His team had also flagged 565 offshore accounts held by the same public officers and suspected to be the proceeds of corruption.
“The Commission is focusing on asset recovery by applying statutes such as the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-laundering Act,” he said. With 350 cases pending in court, he spoke of the need to address the issue of the country’s political culture where people look at how to steal, noting that nine governors had been charged in graft related cases amounting to sh1.2 billion while others were under investigation.
“We should focus more on automating our service delivery to reduce human contact that’s a breeding ground for graft,” he said while at the same time commending the efforts of the media and EACC officials in averting the possible theft of Kshs.9.5 billion of the Kenya Medical Supplies.
The CEO highlighted a backlog of work at the Commission, overstretched staff and gaps in legislation as some of the challenges slowing down the fight against corruption and spoke of the need for capacity building and training. “We have to expand the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions and EACC, and fund the Judiciary,” he said. “These institutions must be strengthened to boost the war against graft.” And he also invited the cooperation of the media and the public in the fight against corruption.
While he acknowledged that the media was doing a good job, he accused the industry of being obsessed with so-called “corruption celebrities”. “Media has been looking for anti-corruption celebrities as opposed to anti-corruption fighters,” he told the editors.
The Press Club luncheon was attended by about 30 editors from various media houses. It was themed ‘Dealing with Kenya’s Corruption Virus: Role of Media’.
KEG President Churchill Otieno said the question of corruption was one that everyone was talking about and urged the media to continue to uphold its integrity and hold those in power to account.
Nation Media Group’s Paul Wafula set the tempo for the afternoon by posing the question, “Are we serious about corruption? He cited inflated prices for supplies, bribe culture among officers and investigators, and a reluctant anti-corruption agency when it comes to answering questions on cases.
“Getting information from EACC is not as easy as one would expect. EACC is wired to close itself,” he said.
In his defence, Mr. Mbarak said there were processes to be followed when prosecuting cases and that since he took over, the agency had concluded 844 cases from the about 3,500 that they had received.