11 October 2010

Kenya: Punish These Looters of Public Resources


Nairobi — Once again, the Controller and Auditor General has published the annual report detailing pilferage and waste in the public sector. Cumulatively, Sh3.4 billion was lost during the 2008/9 financial year, much of it in form of unaccounted imprest. This simply means that some officers take government funds to carry out certain tasks but fail to do so, and without explanation - a straight case of looting from the public coffers.

It is unnerving that despite widespread public denunciation, such monumental losses continue unabated. Worse, in recent years, the government has instituted several measures to end leaks in its financial systems. Clearly, the system is still porous and the cartels of corruption and underhand dealings are working in overdrive.

The impact of massive financial losses on the national economy is great. When a single ministry, Medical Services, for example, loses Sh2.8 billion, that hurts healthcare programmes in a big way. The Health Ministry suffers perennial drug and personnel shortage. Conditions in public hospitals are horrifying and the main reason for this state of affairs is always attributed to poor funding. Yet, a substantial amount of resources is lost through corrupt deals.

Although the Controller and Auditor General meticulously interrogates government funds and presents his verdict religiously every year, the findings are never acted upon. Past reports blacklisted some people from holding public office, but such persons are still riding high. In other words, the report is an annual ritual that does little to help the government manage its affairs.

If there was time to make a difference in an era when the buzzword is zero tolerance to corruption and impunity, then it is now. Punish the culprits.

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