Sunday, 2 August 2015

Posted Monday, August 3, 2015 | by- ISAAC ONGIRI Kenya and US agree deal on stringent measures to stem runaway corruption

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (right) and US President Barack Obama give a joint press conference at the State House in Nairobi on July 25, 2015. Kenya and US have signed an agreement aimed at curbing corruption and help seal loopholes in the dwindling war against the vice in the government. AFP PHOTO | SAUL LOEB
An agreement signed between Kenya and the American government could introduce new drastic measures in curbing corruption and help seal loopholes in the dwindling war against the vice in the government.
But the initiative could dampen hopes of Cabinet secretaries mentioned in various corruption scandals of ever getting back to government after the US demanded a much more combative approach to the vice, said to be consuming 10 per cent of the country’s annual budget.
Cabinet Secretaries Charity Ngilu (Lands), Michael Kamau (Roads), Felix Koskey (Agriculture), Kazungu Kambi (Labour) and Davies Chirchir (Energy) are out in the cold after they were suspended by President Kenyatta over claims of corruption.
Some of the Cabinet secretaries have been cleared on some of the allegations.
There has been pressure to take the same action against Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru, who has been questioned in relation to a case on the procurement of Integrated Finance Management System (IFMIS) software.
Ms Waiguru was previously the director, Integrated Financial Management and Information System.
A 29-point deal on anti-corruption between Kenya and the US was Sunday officially released by State House, just days after the White House published its contents on its own website.
“The Government of Kenya will sustain its commitment to conduct thorough investigations into corruption cases and, where investigations adduce sufficient evidence, to professionally prosecute such corruption cases, including cases recommended by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC),” the agreement said in part.
The revelations of a detailed anti-corruption war agreement signed by Kenyan and American officials in the presence of President Kenyatta and his US counterpart Barack Obama came at the height of an audit report showing that some Sh67 billion may have been spent on unauthorised commitments by various government ministries in the last financial year.
The Auditor-General’s office has also exposed massive theft of public funds by officials’ working in the devolved government, further leading to a shrinking economy attacked on all fronts by merchants of corruption.
Sunday, Attorney-General Githu Muigai said Kenya was committed to the war against corruption and would implement every part of the deal signed by the two governments.
“We have nothing to hide in the agreement.
"It is true we have an elaborate agreement on war against graft and we have made a commitment to stick to it,” Prof Muigai told Nation.
The deal was signed after President Obama raised concerns over runaway corruption in the Kenyan government in a boardroom engagement with President Kenyatta and his ministers but gave it a diplomatic and non-combative approach in his public appearances.
A recently formed taskforce to review the anti-corruption legislations and policies at the Attorney General’s office is to benefit from the US support.
“The US government commits to provide best practices and advice on Kenya’s anti-corruption legislation, including supporting the Kenyan Attorney-General’s interagency taskforce review of anti-corruption laws and policies for possible revisions to strengthen them,” said a statement by the White House on the deal.
Kenya committed to join various global organisations that may strengthen its war on corruption, including offering intelligence services that may help spot illegal and suspicious cash flows both locally and internationally.
Said Prof Muigai: “We have an agreement that will also see us have annual bilateral meetings with the attorney general of the United States as we strengthen our capacity.”
Under the agreement, Kenya plans to join the Egmont Group to enhance its surveillance against money laundering and terrorism financing.
The group brings together several financial intelligence units to combine forces against the two issues, which largely affect Kenya.
“The US Government commits to support Kenya’s efforts to join the Egmont Group and to work with the Government of Kenya in meeting the requirements for membership,” the White House said.
Kenya also committed to join and domesticate the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives, Partnership on Illicit Finance, Financial Action Taskforce (FATF) of the World Bank, as part of US demands to help in the war on corruption.
Focus on monitoring of finance flows was high on agenda, with the Kenyan government committing to accelerate work to strengthen the capacity of the Financial Reporting Centre (FRC) and Central Bank of Kenya to track illicit financial flows.
This will include outfitting the FRC with the requisite platform to run anti-money laundering software.
President Obama pledged the US support in helping Kenya achieve this objective.
In the agreement, the government also committed to leveraging technology to reduce and eradicate opportunities for corruption.
Sources indicated that the American government has pledged financial support but demanded the government’s fidelity in the new anti-corruption war.
Under the agreement, Kenya is to initiate fresh trainings and sensitisation of corruption among all public officials.
“The Government of Kenya commits to introduce compulsory ethics training for all public officials across all levels of government, and the National Anti-Corruption Steering Committee is to commence execution of this programme within three months,” says the agreement.
That means that even governors and officials in the devolved governments would be required to train on new ways of curbing corruption as agreed by the two governments.
If Kenya implements the agreement, it could then qualify to benefit from millions of dollars earmarked for the development by the US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).
The millions are normally given as grants and therefore impose no burden on qualifying countries.
The latest information by the US government shows that Kenya did not qualify for the 2015 funding due to high level corruption the country.
Countries that qualified for the fund are Benin, Lesotho, Liberia, Morocco, Niger, and Tanzania.
MCC was created by the US Congress in 2004 to allow the American government to deliver smart foreign assistance by focusing on good policies, country ownership, and results.

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