Lifestyle audit on Public officers: No pain, no gain

Written By: Sarah Korere
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The writer is the MP for Laikipia North
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The idea that a certain degree of suffering is necessary in order to succeed is as old as time itself.

Two millennia ago, the Jewish religious tradition records a well-known rabbi explaining that “according to the pain is the gain.”

Seventeen hundred years later, Benjamin Franklin, one of the American founding fathers, wrote that “there are no gains without pains”.

In more recent times, the phrase has been used as a motivational tool in exercise videos by people such as the actress Jane Fonda. “No pain, no gain” she would shout to inspire her viewers to keep going, to push through the pain barrier one more time.

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In fact, the phrase “no pain, no gain” has become part of everyday parlance, being frequently used to describe the unavoidable costs associated with progress or success.

And so, with all these diverse voices explaining the pain associated with positive change, is it any surprise that as Kenya undergoes major anti-corruption changes, there will be a certain amount of pain involved.

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It is within this context that we should understand the recent complaints from some public servants after what they described as ‘humiliating’ audits. One procurement officer recently gave an interview in which he described in detail the auditing process.

He described being driven to a bungalow “like sheep to the slaughter”, where he could smell the delicious aroma of food cooking, “but then I knew I couldn’t get a bite.” The process continues – half an hour waiting to be interviewed, a three hour interview in which he was asked numerous questions, followed by a drive back to Nairobi.

This clearly does not sound like the most pleasant way to spend a day. But it is hardly abusive.

The former Chair of the Ethics Anti-Corruption Commission has estimated that around one third of the Kenyan state budget is lost to corruption every year, amounting to around seven hundred billion shillings each year.

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President Uhuru Kenyatta began his second term by laying out an ambitious agenda, known as the Big Four. He committed to achieving universal health coverage, building 500,000 affordable homes, increasing manufacturing to 20% of GDP thereby creating millions of jobs, and ensuring food security for all.

So far we have seen the revamping of our anti-corruption institutions with new leadership, the arrest and prosecution of dozens of senior officials, and a raft of new procedures introduced to tilt the balance in favour of law enforcement agencies.

Of these new measures, perhaps the most impactful and controversial is the lifestyle audit, designed to evaluate the wealth of public officials in order to detect any irregularities.

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So crucial are the lifestyle audits to Uhuru’s anti-graft fight that this week it was announced that their scope was to be widened to include over sixty thousand civil servants. Under a new directive, all cadres in the public service will be expected to complete a new wealth declaration form that requires specific disclosures, including contracts for goods and services, any consultancies, sponsorship by firms, overseas trips, and plans for future employment.

The level of corruption in Kenya is a national emergency, and threat to the Kenyan economy.

Finally, we have a president who is doing something about it. If people need to feel a little uncomfortable on the way, then so be it. It is a price worth paying.

After all, we have been taught from the Jewish rabbinic tradition to Jane Fonda, “no pain, no gain.”

The views expressed in this article don’t necessarily represent KBC’s opinion.

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