Unchecked graft turning Kenya into a failed state
Over the last few weeks, Kenya has been in the throes of an unprecedented corruption wave that has shaken ordinary citizens’ confidence in public institutions to the core.
In other words, corruption has become a byword for State agencies and ministries.
It is a cancer that has been eating at the national fabric for decades now, reaching an unprecedented level in recent years.
The impact of corruption on any economy cannot be gainsaid. Graft simply translates into stalled or failed economies altogether. A failed economy means the majority of the citizenry will not afford a decent meal, enjoy good living conditions and healthcare.
And because resources that would otherwise have gone into stimulating economic growth to create jobs, especially for the youth, end up in private bank accounts, crime becomes the order of the day. So will brain drain as the educated elite seek jobs in the developed world or better managed economies. It happened in Zimbabwe and Somalia just to mention a few.
It can happen to us too and we are hurtling down that road, fast. Corruption keeps a worker’s mind away from gainful work and redirects their energy to deceit and theft. They then christen theft ‘hard work’ in a bid to justify their dubious change in fortunes. A nation cannot survive on lies, yet a majority of us lie about our level of education and take jobs we are not qualified for.
Graft undermines distributive justice, thus perpetuating the decline in citizens’ standard of living. The high level of corruption in Kenya today is a result of a collective failure to instill and uphold discipline in both our markets and public institutions. A lack of market discipline fuels citizens’ appetite for irrationality, forcing public institutions such as Parliament and the Judiciary to take over the disciplinary role.
Market discipline discourages stakeholders from actions that other citizens disapprove. If our leaders were to play their rightful role as stewards of public resources, we would significantly reduce the expenditure on oversight. It would mean fewer resources are dedicated to institutions that are charged with fighting graft such as the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission and even the police, which would in turn be channelled to other vital sectors of the economy such as infrastructure and healthcare. Corruption is fuelled by criminal organisations, with perpetrators sometimes motivated by the urge to ape the lifestyles of others who have “made it”.
The first step towards dismantling corruption is eliminating such organisations and doing a lifestyle audit on bureaucrats. We must employ a nationwide attrition warfare strategy against the corrupt individuals and organisations to save our country.
Striking at the heart of corruption
The goings-on at the National Youth Service and the National Cereals and Produce Board manifest highly organised criminal elements in these organisations. The danger with such groups is that they corrupt law enforcers, including the police and even judges, giving them free rein in their activities. Even more worrying is that sometimes they succeed because of public apathy and in some instances participation. Corruption is destroying any hope of a better future for our youth and in the process the long-term stability of our nation.
The way forward is to evaluate our actions and decisions as a nation ethically. Leaders and other decision-makers must exercise good judgement at the individual and national level.
As political scientists would tell you, democracy means social equality and not necessarily consensus. As such, we must consider the economic, legal and ethical value of our actions at all levels. Economic consideration requires that a decision maximises benefits to the decision maker. When everyone acts rationally, the combined effect would be that our behaviour would maximise the benefits to society.
The starting point would be ensuring access to information about the adverse effects of corruption on the economy, which would help those in positions of influence make the right decisions in safeguarding public resources. Empowering those charged with prosecuting corruption cases to access necessary information would also be vital in ensuring that they gather enough evidence to nail perpetrators.
The fight against graft must also be anchored in the law, with Parliament and the Judiciary expected to play their rightful roles in upholding such legislation when called upon to do so.
These insitutions must also be guided by ethics. This is because ethics governs how we treat others and the way we manage our selfish desires.
The writer teaches at the University of Nairobi
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