UPDATED: Under-fire Kenya president declares corruption threat to national security; nominates new anti-graft chief

Nearly a third of Uhuru Kenyatta's Cabinet is in the cold, as concern swells over damage to economic prospects.

KENYA president Uhuru Kenyatta Monday came out fighting against wide criticism that he had lost grip on the fight against corruption, declaring it a threat to national security.

He has also nominated a new team to head the country’s embattled anti-corruption body. Kenyatta put forward Philip Kinusu, along with those of another four proposed members of the state-owned Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, to the national assembly for consideration.

“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. Terrorism itself is a national security threat,” he said in a televised address.

“The damage to our economy puts millions of lives at peril and undermines our very aspirations as a nation. I am therefore declaring with immediate effect corruption as a national security threat.”  

Kenyatta said he would personally spearhead the fight that will also go after proceeds of corruption stored offshore.

Find: Kenyatta statement on corruption in Kenya

He also spelled out a raft of measures that he hopes will rein in corruption in east Africa’s largest economy, including lifestyle audits of its employees and a string of requirements for firms doing business with the government.

The country will also move to seize assets from public officers found guilty of corruption while whistleblowers would also be protected, he said.

“We will make it expensive for anyone stealing from Kenyans,” he said, three days after receiving recommendations from a task force on how to tackle the vice. “We will win this fight”.

“I have directed the immediate implementation the recommendations made particularly prioritising those that will ensure we fulfil our goal of building strong cases, reclaiming assets and achieving convictions.”

The country’s chief justice said a special court would be set up to try cases of corruption, as the senate speaker termed the report’s recommendations “a turning point for our republic”.

Kenyatta also urged innovation in the anti-corruption fight.

The government would also not buy goods and services above market rates, he said, in a reference to “tenderpreneurs” who have minted millions while fleecing the exchequer. 

He also promised that government would settle its debts promptly to cut out graft and avenues for rent-seeking, while introducing penalties for delays in meeting service deadlines.

Every firm that does business with the state will have to sign a code of ethics, with failure to comply leading to a wide-reaching blacklist.

The government will also reduce wastage of taxpayer funds he pledged, highlighting allowances.

“I am of the mind fellow Kenyans that we in government should take better care of your money before we ask you for more taxes.”

The statement of intent came days after a powerful minister relinquished office following a scandal that cost millions to taxpayers.

Anne Waiguru’s resignation on Saturday meant six of Kenyatta’s 19-member Cabinet have vacated their positions; but she was the only one who expressly resigned.

Kenyatta will however have his work cut for him—the reaction on social media was that action needs to follow intent.

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