Wycliffe Muga: Ringera's job isn't about graft war

For a while, it seemed we were headed for quiet times. The Shinyalu and Bomachoge by-elections had been peacefully concluded. And the controversy over the proposed Mau evictions was at last heading towards a humane resolution.

But instead, political temperatures have risen. And this time it is over the reappointment of Justice Aaron Ringera as the Director-General of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission.

Judging by what newspaper readers and TV viewers have to say, it seems a majority are outraged at this decision. Justice Ringera is widely considered to have failed to deliver, and many want to see his quick exit.

I think a lot of this anger is misplaced. I would say Justice Ringera should be allowed to keep his job, provided only that he goes further than the KACC's advisory board on the pro-posed salary reduction.

The proposed reduction of the director general's salary by 35 per cent does not go far enough.

What Ringera should do is accept a pay cut of 75 per cent, and then cling to his appointment letter, having made it clear he is not in it for the money. He would still be left with some Sh625,000 a month, which is still a huge salary for a purely ceremonial job.

The point which most critics seem to ignore is that Ringera's position has little to do with fighting corruption. This director-general-ship, like the other grand title in this field, The Permanent Secretary for Governance and Ethics — held briefly by the fabled John Githongo — is part of the elaborate window-dressing the government set up a few years ago to appease the donors by suggesting something was being done about corruption.

Which is not to say that anybody is actually fooled by this eyewash. But rather that it provides something that can be mentioned in speeches when the government is defending itself from accusations of not being serious about corruption. And the proof that this is the case was provided by Ringera himself, when he spoke on numerous occasions of the lack of teeth which faced the KACC, and how his commission was helpless to use the evidence they had of economic crimes, since he had no powers of prosecution.

John Githongo likewise, after realising that he was getting nowhere, unilaterally changed his job description from that of adviser to His Excellency the President on Ethics and Governance to that of a spy-at-large. In this new role, he recorded private discussions which would later enable him to betray friend and colleagues who were foolish enough to speak plainly, because they trusted him.

I once knew someone who held a senior appointment at one of our diplomatic missions abroad, and was congratulating him on having scaled the heights of diplomatic service, when he told me that there really wasn't that much to it. Most of what he did was just to hang out, he said.

And Justice Ringera's job is really no different. He basically just hangs out. And those naive enough to be taken in by the elaborate pretense that this job has something to do with fighting corruption have only themselves to blame if they find that nothing of that kind is happening.

Mind you, these positions which allow the holder to hang out for a period of some three very pleasant years or so are among the most sought after in the whole country. And any politician of stature will have a whole troop of hangers-on determined to somehow get to hang out at taxpayers' expense for the next three years. Some manage this by getting diplomatic postings to non-crucial friendly states. Others get to serve on commissions of inquiry of one kind or another.

There was a time when even the CEOs of state corporations were appointed mostly from the ranks of such hangers-on. But that is not so frequent these days of performance contracts. In addition, boards of directors have learned to assert them-selves, just as the advisory board of the KACC is now doing in opposing the presidential appointment.

How far they will get with this defiance remains to be seen. But the outcome actually does not matter, once you realise this position is of no real significance, and that it hardly matters at all who holds it.

If Justice Ringera will agree to a 75 per cent pay-cut just to assure us that personal greed is not what drives him he should be allowed to keep his job.

Wycliffe Muga comments on topical issues.



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2 Responses to Wycliffe Muga: Ringera's job isn't about graft war

Simon said...

You say, "The point which most critics seem to ignore is that Ringera's position has little to do with fighting corruption". Well sir, take a good look at the Act related to Ringera's appointment and his responsibilities thereon. This is what Kenyan's are trying to protect. A true application of the law. I see no logic in your argument that he should be allowed to keep hi s job. Try again!

kenyanobama.com said...

Let Ringera stay on. Do we have a replacementnow?