Corruption in Kenya: It's Not About the Wealth. It's About the Source of the Wealth

"I am worth KSh. 387million," screamed one headline.

"I am worth KSh. 287million," bellowed another.

The preceding headlines, as most Kenyans probably know by now, refer to the public announcements by Safaricom's CEO Bob Collymore and Kenya Commercial Bank's (KCB) Group Chief Executive Joshua Oigara. The two executives made the declarations about their personal wealth as part of the latest rendition of Kenya's fight against corruption or to quote Mr. Oigara, ".....to initiate greater transparency....."

The KCB CEO went on to claim that corruption in Kenya is "driven by secrecy in organizational operations" -- an assessment I don't fully understand since as a publically traded organization, there should be little "secrecy" in how the "organization" Kenya Commercial Bank "operates" unless there is a level of (financial) malfeasance similar to the one seen during the meltdown of 2007/2008. And were that to happen, medoubts reviewing a CEO's net worth would reveal said malfeasance!

As for the astute observation that corruption "hurts growth.....", I will let that stand on its own.

Both Messers. Collymore and Oigara are executives in the private sector and at a minimum, can explain the source of their wealth/worth. I thus won't hoot and holler because persons who are gainfully employed summarize and reveal the extent of their wealth/finances.

However, and as kick-off point, now that these two business leaders have opened up their finances to public scrutiny and transparency, I am curious to see if President Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto, Raila Odinga and Kenyan's political class will follow suit and reveal not only their wealth, but the source of said wealth.

I would pay top dollars (or shillings) to see the forensics on a Cabinet Secretary's ownership of a home valued at KSh. 200million; an amount reportedly paid in cash! Even if the erstwhile CS of Devolution & Planning took out a mortgage for 80% of that amount, Ms. Annie would still be servicing a loan worth KSh. 160million -- a healthy monthly payment given (a) the prevailing interest rates, and (b) her salary -- unless she had other "investments" and/or was a "successful" or "astute entrepreneur" -- itself an entirely different discussion!

Answers to how Anne Waiguru could afford the multi-million shilling house and maintain the reported lifestyle and the other questions any serious and independent lifestyle audit entails would herald a new front in Kenya's latest war against corruption.

Lifestyle Audit: An analysis of a person's living standard and wealth to see if they are consistent with the reported AND earned income.

The issue as I see it is not the net worth or wealth of the country's politicians and elites. The issue is whether or not they can corroborate the SOURCE of that wealth.

The difficulty if not outright impossibility of cracking this code i.e. independently verifying the source of the wealth owned by Kenya's political elite is embodied in President Uhuru Kenyatta's response to a question regarding how much land his family has throughout Kenya. In response to the question posed by BBC's Hardtalk back in 2008, Mr. Kenyatta curtly responded thus:

"I don't need to answer that question because that's not the issue. Land reform is not about a person; land reform is about a nation. It's not that I won't tell you. It's that I don't need to tell you."

Likewise, the president's mother and former First Lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta practically run away when asked if her family would be willing to donate part of its vast holding of land to resettle internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Mahi Mahihu. Coming to the defense of the First Lady, her host, a Ms. Lucy Njeri Ngunjiri hastily noted that opening the Pandora's Box that is land ownership by the Kenyatta family "would cause her not to come back again"; ostensibly to help the IDPs.

Sorry Mr. President but determining how the family of a person (who portrays themselves as a "fighter against corruption") acquired so much wealth (land) in Kenya, a country with a history of violence over land ownership, IS the issue.

Frankly, and I say this with as a much respect as I can muster, it is the foregoing combination of flippancy and avoidance when confronted with pointed questions about Kenya's sordid past that has hindered if not stymied the country's efforts at righting the historical injustices -- all directly related to acquisition of wealth (land) through "dishonest or illegal means especially by powerful people" i.e. corruption.

Kenya's latest version of the war against corruption will gain traction and credibility when the family and friends of the president and the country's political elites reveal the source of their wealth.

Until then, Kenya @100 will be no different than Kenya @52 which is a 21st Century version of Kenya @1.