Kenya Needs Better Coordination to Fight Illicit Money Flows

interview

Photo: Michael Kaloki/RNW
Protesters carrying a coffin symbolizing one of Kenya's many scandals.

The amount of illicit money entering Kenya from faulty trade invoicing, crime, corruption and shady business activities has increased more than five-fold in a decade, new data has shown.

The data, calculated for Thomson Reuters Foundation by Global Financial Integrity, shows these illicit inflows now equal roughly 8 percent of Kenya's economy.

Halakhe Waqo, chief executive officer of Kenya's Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, speaks about the problem of dirty money and how to combat it.

Do you agree there's been a surge in illicit inflows into Kenya?

It's a description of a global scenario. When we look at the actual flows - whether within a particular country, in a region, or world over - the scaling up is real. The volume is growing.

These things have very high returns, very quickly. And therefore new people are enticed to join. And because it's a syndicate, they are not easily identified. So it is, generally, a fair assessment.

Why are we seeing so little success combating these crimes?

Criminals are also getting innovative. They have technology. They have intelligence. They have linkages and networks. And they are daring.

There are also interested parties in many quarters. They also try to create hurdles. Poaching for example ... The people who are involved include the very same people who are supposed to safeguard the welfare of those animals.

Critics say Kenya has good laws but it fails to implement them. What is your view?

We have the laws. Maybe one can talk about the lack of capacity to enforce because the legal instruments are new. These are new ideas and new processes. We are at a starting stage with most of them.

Weakness in enforcement is very clear. But many institutions are all working on the issues of scaling up and strengthening.

Investment has been small for now as we are scaling up. That's the only thing. Otherwise, there is nothing standing in the way of Kenyans to engage in this area of work.

What have you achieved since you became CEO in January?

When I joined [the commission] there was a big lapse in its own internal operations and capacity. The law that was enacted in 2011 disbanded the old commission.

The leadership of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission was sent home to usher in new leaders. All the staff of KACC to transit to EACC were to be vetted. The transition was long.

Our process of cases and the files were also so slow. We facilitated processes a bit quicker. We even pulled out very old cases which had been under the desk.

We engaged the office of the Director of Prosecutions [DPP] in a way that we are now working more harmoniously, faster.

If somebody is arrested, he is arraigned in court the same day. We report online and then the authority from DPP is also online.

Do you have all the staff you need?

We have had a capacity problem for the last two, three years. We have also had a challenge of staff flocking out of the commission to other institutions.

At one point our staffing level was about 220, yet the establishment provided for 370. Now we are nearly 300.

Critics say the EACC lacks teeth as it can't prosecute. What's your response?

The teeth, as far as I am concerned, are about three things. One is whether the legal instruments are in place? They are.

Two, whether the institutions that are enforcing are in place? They are in plenty.

Three, whether we have the resource commitment and the good will to do it? And I think these things are there. It's just a matter of coordinating properly and showing results.

We have to admit that it's a very complex area of work.

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InFocus

Kenya Becoming Money-Laundering Haven - Report

Protesters carrying a coffin symbolizing one of Kenya's many scandals.

The amount of money entering Kenya from shady business activities has increased more than five-fold in a decade, new data has shown. Read more »