Macharia Gaitho: Beware, Anglo Leasing and Goldenberg now in coalition

IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN A “COME, let us reason together” moment.

Instead what I saw with the unveiling of the new grand coalition Cabinet was “come, let us eat together”.

Just take a casual look at who is serving in the “new” Cabinet and the most striking thing is that it is largely a recycling of the same old faces.

President Kibaki could not be persuaded to drop a large number of characters who add absolutely no value to the Cabinet and remain in race just because they are old allies.

As for Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who is forever trumpeting change, reform and fresh, new beginnings, it is nothing less than scandalous that he was so happy to bring aboard some of the most disreputable faces of the Nyayo kleptocracy.

There is absolutely nothing in place to suggest that this new arrangement represents anything other than the political elite putting aside their differences to continue business as usual.

On both the PNU and ODM halves of the Cabinet are well known thieves, plunderers and ethnic warlords.

I suppose there had to be concessions if an all-inclusive government was to be formed so that Kenya can get back to normalcy.

A monstrosity of a bloated Cabinet was one of the things many of us grudgingly accept if that was the price to be paid for a return to peace and stability.

But for the political classes, I suspect return to normalcy is not merely about getting the country back on even keel, but re-establishing opportunities for official rape, looting and plunder.

Is this the Cabinet that will fight corruption and drive meaningful reform? I highly doubt it. It is only in very few countries where corruption is accepted as a perk of leadership that one would end up with the kind of Cabinet we have been saddled with.

We will not have one team pointing fingers at the other over the Goldenberg scandal and the other countering with accusations on the Anglo Leasing scandal. Goldenberg and Anglo Leasing are in coalition!

Just looking at the mug shots in the papers yesterday, all I saw was a gallery of rogues. Other than the beneficiaries and architects of Anglo Leasing and Goldenberg, I spotted a fellow notorious for one of the biggest and fastest corporate plunders in Kenyan history. A columnist once described as a genius anyone who could bankrupt such a rich corporation in so short a time.

Another was well-known in past life for shaking down road construction companies for colossal sums, funds, of course, which were recovered by shortcuts in construction, and hence Kenya’s despicable road network.

I SEE A FELLOW WHO PULLED OFF one of the most audacious land-grabbing scams around, getting himself allocated a section of a road in the capital city and promptly putting the title deed up as security for a bank loan. The bank, obviously, could not recover anything when the fellow neglected to pay back the loan.

And that’s just one project.

There is another crook who grabbed for himself a prime chunk of a City Council parking lot and sold it to a State institution for 10 times its real value.

There is also another who managed to “acquire” at a throwaway price land being sold by a State corporation, the end result being that the corporation was unable to raise the money it needed to pay off retrenched workers, who more than a decade later are wallowing in poverty.

Then there are all those fellows who engineered the phenomenon in Kenya we call ethnic clashes that have since come to haunt us at every election.

We also have figures very closely linked to criminal outfits that have also become a part of our cycles of electoral violence.

That is the disreputable cast supposed to lead Kenya to the next level of development? We might as well bring in the Mafia to run the government.

One of the hallmarks of the Kibaki presidency was the amount of leeway he allowed ministers to run their own show. That was a refreshing change from the command and control of the Nyayo era where every little decision had to be referred to State House.

Quite a number of ministers, definitely, made a mark when given a free hand, and that was seen in improved services and transformation of some parastatals. But it also allowed the emergence of fiefdoms and little centres of corruption.

Now with many more ministries, and with an expansion in the number of dubious characters in the Cabinet, the situation could get out of control.

I, therefore, suggest that President Kibaki and Premier Odinga forget all this delegation business and keep their ministers on a tight leash.

If they were happy enough to burden us with ministers they know very well will not keep their fingers off the till, then it becomes their responsibility to keep a keen watch on the fellows.

Since it will be impossible to police every single minister, then the next best alternative is simply to make sure that no minister is in a position to steal.

Let the dishonourable men and women keep their limousines, flags and bodyguards, but otherwise let their roles be strictly ceremonial.

What we need is an efficient and professional civil service to run things.

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