CORRUPTION

I refuse to be mere observer in graft war

It behoves us to introspect on our role in the war on corruption.

In Summary
  • At least one in every three Kenyans seeking public services would offer a bribe.
  • Yet, even after paying, a huge percentage of them still feel dissatisfied with the services they obtain

It is the end of an era for citizens who experienced retired President Moi’s leadership. Part of his mandate while in office was to nurture the economy into a robust and sustainable state that could feed the masses and compete with other economies at the global scale.

However corruption, as he would repeatedly lament, was a barrier to this dream. Laying the foundation stone for the new Kapsabet AIC station in Nandi in 2016 he stated, “Corruption is bad…I am appealing to all Christians to help the government eliminate this bad thing…if you are senior government official anywhere, please help in stopping this bad thing that is giving the government a bad image.”

Years later, citizens are still grappling with the challenges of corruption. Indeed, corruption is now a perennial debate that is hard to ignore. It has grown from a complex mix of sociopolitical and economic factors to a menace that is fanned by nepotism, lack of public goodwill and lax accountability structures.

 

We are reminded of incidences such as that of the now infamous receptionist at the National Health Insurance Fund whose fortune was allegedly built on the remittances from the majority of Kenyans. We are also awake to the cases before investigative agencies that belie the fact that there are a few ambitious Kenyans who have betrayed us. Indeed, rent-seekers live within our midst and we are repeatedly awestruck by their rags-to-riches stories.

All is not lost however, for the country is making strides towards eliminating the vice. There is political goodwill at the highest offices, with President Uhuru Kenyatta at the forefront in the fight against corruption. Previously it was unfathomable to see Cabinet secretaries in the dock for abuse of office.

 Just how much money does Kenya lose when we fail to pay for public goods and services? At what point do we improve on our service delivery when we chose to pay for services that should otherwise be free? What would happen, for instance, if all matatu drivers stopped giving bribes to traffic police officers?

That even elected leaders can lose their seats due to corruption is something we could not have imagined 10 years ago. It is the political and institutional resolve that has borne incremental fruits. These wins should motivate us to aim for much more at individual and national levels.

In January 2019, during the conference on the Multisectoral Initiative against Corruption, Uhuru reminded Kenyans that our collective efforts are required if we are to effectively deal with corruption. Sadly though, the deep and widespread tentacles of corruption are hinged on our long-term socialisation into the culture of sleaze.

Often times, the revelations on corruption are met with uninspired lamentations on the streets and social media spaces. Our national anger is often directed towards institutions that are perceived as complacent as we loudly decry the prevalence of cartels from within our offices and communities. 

It behoves us to introspect on our role in the war on corruption. Just how much money does Kenya lose when we fail to pay for public goods and services? At what point do we improve on our service delivery when we chose to pay for services that should otherwise be free? What would happen, for instance, if all matatu drivers stopped giving bribes to traffic police officers?

As a society, we can unlearn certain vices and inculcate the culture of proactivity in the war on graft. Singapore, for example, has maintained its top 10 ranking in the Transparency International annual Corruption Perception Index (CPI) because its citizens frown upon sleaze. They collectively expect good service as a right as opposed to a privilege.

They further understand that paying bribes for services does not necessarily equal quality service delivery. Interestingly, perception surveys by the EACC have noted that at least one in every three people seeking public services would offer a bribe. Yet, even after paying their way around it, a huge percentage of those respondents still feel dissatisfied with the services they obtained.

 

Let us endeavour not to squander the political and institutional goodwill that currently exists in our midst. The presidency, EACC, ODPP, DCI and the Judiciary need our unequivocal support to shift from the culture of sleaze and embrace transparency and accountability in our personal and national dealings. We should refuse to be mere observers in this quest against graft because corruption only thrives when the people accept and tolerate it.