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How much is Sh2 billion? A huge sum. Here at The Observer we have never seen that kind of money. Now we have it on the authority of the President of the Republic of Kenya that this colossal amount will be stolen from government coffers by the end of today. Every day. Let that sink in.

President Uhuru Kenyatta did not say who steals the money or how, when he spoke to Gikuyu language radio stations on Monday, January 17. The President receives high-level intelligence. So, it is reasonable to assume he knows all the details of the theft.

Now, what should journalists do with this information? Report the news and forget about it? Well, the President’s revelation is hardly surprising. Days before Uhuru spoke, retired Chief Justice David Maraga told the Council of Governors during a luncheon in his honour that up to a third of the national budget is stolen each year.

But those are not Maraga’s calculations. Five years ago, then Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission chairman Philip Kinisu told Reuters that, “Kenya’s budget is now approaching Sh2 trillion; a third of it is being wasted through corruption”. That was about Sh600 billion.

“Six hundred billion shillings can finance the bulk of the government’s recurrent expenditure so that the services can reach all corners of the republic,” Kinisu said.

President Kenyatta declared corruption a “threat to national security” in a televised address to the nation in November 2015 when he re-launched the war against the vice. Has his administration won the war five years on? The jury is still out.

What about the media’s performance in this war? The debate about the role of the media in fighting corruption is on going. How is it possible that Sh2 billion is stolen every day from government coffers yet the headlines are about Raila said this, Ruto said that; Kieleweke this, Tangatanga that?

To be sure, headlines about theft of public money appear almost every day. But they are usually reports about the findings of investigative agencies and watchdog institutions such as parliamentary committees, the EACC and the Auditor General. This is important, but a lot more is needed.

Media houses must invest in exposing this looting through independent investigative reporting. It is not enough to wait until the EACC or a parliamentary committee issues a report about corruption.

Theft of public money is happening right now as you read this piece. How does the money move? Do journalists really have in-depth understanding of happenings in public institutions where this theft occurs? Is it impossible to keep an eye, follow the money? Break corruption stories?

We don’t think so. You recall the excellent 2019 Citizen TV exposé titled “The Maasai Mara Heist” that led to trial of officials at Maasai Mara University over the loss of at least Sh190 million?

There are good men and women who are willing to provide information as whistle blowers. It is the task of journalists to look for these people and expose the theft. Remember NTV’s “Covid Billionaires” investigation last year?

This country has been destroyed by massive theft of public funds. Corruption kills far more citizens than all deadly diseases combined. How? Citizens can’t access good healthcare, food, water, education, roads, security, healthy environment, anything because the money meant for these services is stolen.

Well, wall-to-wall media coverage of politics every day is not ending any time soon. But we are at war with looters. All media houses should endeavour to expose the theft.

See you next week!

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