By Tom Odula
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ Kenya’s president on Monday declared corruption a national security threat and he presented a raft of measures to fight the graft that is endemic in East Africa’s largest economy.
“I believe that corruption is a standing threat to our national security,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said in televised remarks. “The bribe accepted by an official can lead to successful terrorist attacks that kill Kenyans. It can let a criminal off the hook for them to return to crime and harming Kenyans.”
The president’s announcement was received with skepticism by analysts.
“This president has made the best speeches about fighting corruption but his credibility is very low,” said John Githongo, a former Kenyan government adviser who exposed millions of dollars in government corruption in the previous regime.
“Going by the past speeches nobody should hold their breath (for change) lest they faint,” Githongo said.
Kenyatta said among the measures to be taken against graft include the vetting of customs and revenue officers, whom the government believes are denying the country revenue by taking bribes to overlook individuals’ and institutions’ tax obligations. The country’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, has also been ordered to help track down the corrupt, Kenyatta said.
Banks that break anti-money-laundering laws and regulations will, at a minimum, lose their banking licenses, Kenyatta said, and directors and senior officials at those banks will also be held culpable for abetting money laundering.
Kenyatta’s nearly three-year-old regime has come under heavy criticism for inaction against graft which American Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec earlier this month described as a crisis.
Many of the incidents of graft highlighted by the Kenyan media have focused on the Devolution and Planning Ministry. Just this past weekend, Anne Waiguru resigned as minister, citing health concerns.
Kenya ranked a low 145 out 174 countries in the Transparency International 2014 index of perception of graft among countries.