Wakiaga: Corruption, the one step forward, two steps back predicament

If a country is to fight corruption then it has to introspectively investigate its attitude toward those who have been corrupt historically.

With the existence of a strong constitution such as the one we have, and finely written laws, how have we implemented them to combat corruption? What are the tangible ways in which citizens can attest to the actualization of the laws and regulations that prohibit the perpetuation of bribery as a ‘normal’ way of doing business in this country?

What sort of reprimand has been meted out to unethical citizens who have lost this country billions of shillings in shady deals? Have the consequences been dire enough to deter anyone else who might want to benefit unfairly from corrupt practices?

Corruption in this country seems entrenched in every facet of our lives. It is historical and appallingly present in our every day, despite having a progressive justice system and constitution.

It is estimated that the government loses up to 30 percent of its revenue due to corruption.

When it comes to dealing with those who are found guilty we have shown a lot of hesitation and leniency as a country. We have softened and turned a blind eye to some instances, until it occurs again and we are struck with the reality of our endless loop of complacency.

We have also continually used tactics that are not strong enough to uphold justice sustainably. These are, unfortunately, the same tactics that appear to be a default manual on how to act, be and succeed in our society.

Over time we find ourselves replicating social and political traditions that are entrenched in corrupt practices.

We endemically chip away at the moral fabric of our society and we become blind to our own complacency, even worse, we normalise corruption as a means to an end.

This normalisation then becomes an excuse to carry on with corrupt practices such as bribery. Presently we see efforts to bridge the inequality gap through humanitarian and financial inclusion projects that are proven to work and can be sustainable if principles of honesty and transparency are adhered to.

However, the main benefactors of corruption will keep on perpetuating unethical means of transacting at the cost of our country’s competitiveness and economic prosperity.

As an integral part of Kenya’s business community we are aware of the problems that poverty brings and together with other players endeavour to combat it as an end goal to proposed business solutions for the region.

Our concerns and proposed remedies have been highlighted in the proposed anti-bribery bill that was announced by the President , H.E Uhuru Kenyatta, earlier this week.

But even so, this bill might end up adding to the well-written, well-researched documents that characterise our judicial system if we do not have the will to implement and punish those who continue to act contrary.

Good governance does not come easy and we must be willing to go through the uncomfortable levels as we aim for transparency.

This means paying close attention to how our resources are being utilized and being vigilant of any threats to our future financial security as a country.

Government officers and representatives need to account for how they are spending our taxes openly.

Businesses too need to promote transparency in their transactions, tenders and contracts to show the level of professionalism and honesty that government agencies should reciprocate in their services.

Organisations and entrepreneurs should lead the change in culture by adhering to a business code of ethics consistent with the UN Global Compact and encouraging other businesses to do the same.

We need to commit to auditing our own corporate behaviour against these codes, by, for example, being at the frontline of tackling bribery in supply chains.

There are so many ways in which we can achieve this but it starts with our willingness to take a tough stance on the culprits regardless of hierarchies or political affiliations.

As a country, being competitive comes as a result of great strategies pegged on our ability to have foresight. Foresight enables us to see that the future is bleak if we do not take action now.

We have long thought of corruption as only bad when it works against us, but good if a section of us gain from it. This is how why we find ourselves in a dire situation morally and economically.

Indeed we need to constantly revisit our laws to plug any loopholes that are paving way for corruption, but more so, we need to see the impact of their implementation on our economy.


By Phyllis Wakiaga

The writer is the CEO of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers and can be reached on ceo@kam.co.ke


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