The greatest impediment to the war on corruption is conviction of suspects. For years, the country has been treated to theatrics where high-flying suspects are arrested, forced to step down from public offices or arraigned but the cases are never prosecuted to the logical end.
Goldenberg, Anglo Leasing, Tokyo Embassy and NYS scandal, among others, have never been concluded. Several reasons explain that.
One, investigations tend to be shoddy and hardly sustain prosecution. Likewise, sometimes there is overwhelming evidence after meticulous investigations, but the matter is bungled at the dock where prosecutors do a sloppy job.
Two, external influence comes to bear and suits get dismissed. Often, when there is public pressure on government to act, high-profile arrests are made, only for those cases to crumble.
The third scenario plays out in the courts where some lawyers working in cahoots with some judicial officials frustrate prosecution of suits through frivolous excuses, leading to perennial adjournments until interest dies.
It is against this backdrop that Chief Magistrate Elizabeth Juma set a precedent with the historic ruling that commits Sirisia MP John Waluke and businesswoman Grace Wakhungu to either 39 years’ imprisonment or a fine totalling Sh2 billion for defrauding the National Cereals and Produce Board.
The novelty of the judgment comes in the following respects. One, the penalties are quite severe and serve to deter fraudsters from attempting to steal from the state.
Corruption and pilferage must be made painful. Two, the case has been determined within two years, a record of sorts, as ordinarily they take inordinately longer. In view of that, there is no reason courts should delay with suits before them.
Three, it has now been established that the law, as it exists today, has weight. So it is not for lack of law but failure to apply them that many suits collapse.
Corruption remains the single greatest threat to the nation. Billions are stolen from the state, rendering it unable to serve the public.
When schools go without teachers or instructional materials, hospitals are bereft of medicines and other provisions or roads are left in tatters, it is not for lack of cash. The funds meant to provide these facilities are stolen and benefit just a few.
The ruling has restored the public’s faith in the Judiciary and rule of law. We challenge the investigative and prosecuting agencies to revive all pending cases and push for their logical settlement. Importantly, courts must henceforth maintain that high standard.