Aside from the Big Four projects Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta wishes the country to focus its energies on as he defines his legacy, there is a fifth: Corruption on a grand scale. It is an industry within itself.
That the equivalent of $100 million has been brazenly stolen by a handful of companies through overpriced goods and services and in some cases for no goods or services, from the National Youth Service, an institution that is meant to provide avenues for youth empowerment and rehabilitation, should be a cause for concern. But is it?
Indeed, this is the second chapter of grand corruption in the same institution within a couple of years, coming right on the heels of an equally despicable round of theft that forced a Cabinet Secretary to resign. The only difference this time is that the amount pilfered from the institution is even higher.
And while the NYS may be the current public face of this tragi-comedy, several other corruption schemes are playing out in different departments of the government, at the national and county levels and in parastatals. Nor is the private sector innocent here.
The bulk of these corrupt deals have a private-sector beneficiary either as the supposed supplier of the goods or even in the form of a corrupt professional rendering services aimed at facilitating the corruption. These include banks within which accounts are opened on Monday, money is deposited and thereafter withdrawn and carted away in sackloads within three days.
The rhetorical saying that corruption is a cancer must be put into context: It is a cancer that has put the country at large in the ICU, but provides a very healthy platform for accumulation of wealth for a growing number of players.
Simply put, corruption is a sector of the Kenyan economy, destroying the national economy but building up individual fortunes.
Citizens at all levels, from the government to civil society, religious groups and even the private sector must shed the pretence that corruption is a nasty practice they would never indulge in. Nay, it is clear that impunity that comes with corruption in Kenya has not only strengthened its principal practitioners but has also emboldened many who were previously unwilling to join the fray.
The latest revelations of corruption show that the net of enablers has professionals of various kinds as its bedrock. These are the traditional procurement officers, who tinker with tenders and manipulate government procurement regulations, finance professionals who help hide corrupt loot and lawyers who lend their skills to manipulate the legal system to enable corrupt individuals to evade justice, not to mention a political class that depends on corruption to finance political campaigns.
The much praised government payment system (IFMIS), that has been the conduit for illicit payment, proving that technology is not the answer.
What Kenya needs is a mental rearmament involving ostracism of the corrupt. Ordinary Kenyans must stop electing to public offices rich persons who buy votes using the currency of corruption proceeds. The country should awaken to this crisis before all its citizenry joins the bandwagon of corruption.