BWIRE: Nairobi Media Summit should focus on accountability

BWIRE: Nairobi Media Summit should focus on accountability

By Victor Bwire

Uncertain future, shattered careers, tensed and worried families, frozen bank accounts, isolated formerly highly connected individuals and mediatized police and court appearances least describe the life of public officers suspected to have been involved in plundering public resources.

The war on corruption in Kenya has taken a different dimension, and in addition the arrests and arraignment in courts, the name and shame that is associated with the current corruption purge cannot be dismissed as merely a publicity exercise.

The President has provided the political will that previously lacked in the past attempts to fight corruption, and with determined investigating and prosecuting independent offices, its tough times for corruption investors.

The missing link so far, is the completion of the cases and systematic recovery of the resources to the public coffers so that the monies are ploughed back into development. Billions are being held in frozen bank accounts and unfinished projects dot the country, largely because of court cases.

Hope the recent statement by the Chief Justice to the effect that corruption related cases will be expedited materializes.

Through the media, Kenyans continually witness the embezzlement, pilferage of public funds through shoddy deals between gluttonous public officials and their accomplices in the private sector.

The media in Kenya has remained steadfast in unearthing scandals after scandals and on many instances calling for the arrest and prosecution of those convicted.

To consolidate and review the role media has played in accountability in Kenya over the years, this years annual media summit hosted by the Media Council of Kenya will focus on the theme media, accountability and good governance, where a number of leading editors, governance experts, diplomats and practicing journalists will share their experiences.

Speakers during the August 8 and 9th media summit will see topics including corruption in the media, safety threats to investigative journalists, access to information held by the government discussed. Will the media maintain its watchdog role, or become lapdogs or guard dogs in the war on corruption?

That media is a critical player in the promotion of accountability and monitoring the use of public resources; media’s intrinsic role in good governance ranges from raising public awareness about corruption, its causes, consequences and possible remedies in addition to but investigating, unearthing and reporting misuse of public resources.

Without doubt, the effectiveness of the media in general and journalists in particular, in turn, depends on enhanced access to information and freedom of expression, as well as professionalism.

The media also generated sufficient pressure to force high-profile government officials to resign.

Kenyan journalists have invariably engaged in investigative journalism to uncover the truth by carrying out constant, relevant and independent investigative stories.

The media has been at hand helping expose scandals and more importantly in generating sufficient pressure on looters to come out through court interventions, denials or related responses by suspects, which is a huge contribution.

This notwithstanding, the media remains an important player in the effort and through consistent, factual and professional covering of corruption related matters, will help in creating the needed public consciousness, and in the long run concerted action from the state.

Furthermore, media has been a very important whistle-blower, assisting investigators with salient information and identities of looters and helped expose corruption scandals allover. Access to information held by public authorities remain a challenge for media across the country, which has frustrated journalists and other Kenyans participation in governance issues.

It also remains a nascent area for promoters of open data and campaigners of access to information, who should aim to hold the relevant authorities and players – public, private sector and civil society, to account.

Media has reported and summarized the cost of corruption in Kenya as manifested through, increased price of administration and inefficient public expenditures, lowering respect for constituted authority thus diminishing governmental legitimacy and misallocation of resources.

Other manifestations include failure to achieve public sector objectives reducing competition, encouraging the selection of uneconomical and unsustainable projects in order to manufacture opportunities for financial kickbacks and leading to economic and cultural losses to societies from environmental degradation.

The writer is the Head of Media Development and Strategy, the Media Council of Kenya