Monday, July 15, 2019

Start at the very top, Mr Mohamed

When regulators fail or are compromised, the whole system fails. My advice to H.E is to send heads of all the regulatory authorities home. Hire clean folks. Start afresh. That is where your war on corruption should have started. The regulators are regularising corruption. - @WehliyeMohamed
Whenever we bemoan the extent of corruption in the provision of public services, I recall this quote from Tacitus: "The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws". Kenya's regulatory environment is the result of the metastasizing corruption enervating its public institutions. If it were not for the corruption of the the Traffic Police Department, we wouldn't have the National Transport and Safety Authority which, in some instances of unthinking-ness, has resulted in motor vehicles, many times of the same make, model and colour, bearing the same number plate. The DusitD2 attack rammed home the consequences of NTSA's corruption. This is just the most obvious example.

In the heat of the moment, as a consequence of the hollowing out of public institutions by politicians and administrators alike, Government reacts by establishing a new institution to regulate a hitherto regulated sector. KEBS' failures spawned the Anti-Counterfeit Authority. EACC's failures spawned the Asset Recovery Agency. The National Police Service's failures spawned NTSA. And so on and so forth. Rather than address the root causes of regulatory failure, we have always sought to cover them up by establishing a new institution, throwing billions of shillings at it, and letting them have a free hand to "clean up the rot". The policy almost always fails in execution.

There is a fundamental flaw at the heart of the Kenyan administrative state: some Kenyans, and the entities they control, and some foreigners, and the billions they are said to have "invested", are "untouchable". Their status, power and wealth insulate them from the consequences of their actions. The law is merely an inconvenience to them. It can be set aside when it is in their interests. This is epitomised by the way we no longer protest the privileges extended to flag-festooned SUVs that are driven without a care for the Traffic Act or, indeed, the highway code - merely because they bear "very important passengers" going about their duties and who cannot afford to be inconvenienced by such mundane things as lane discipline. This anti-law attitude has permeated every facet of our lives. It has inspired Kenyans from all walks of life to extend even the most tenuous associations with powerful people into some kind of invisibility cloak when it comes to their public and private dealings.

Traffic Act scofflaws who happen to head powerful religious congregations seemingly walk away from the deaths they have caused on the roads. Vendors of various foodstuffs are seemingly immune not just from prosecution but from any form of investigation as they adulterate their wares with toxins and carcinogens with impunity. All of them take their cue from senior state officers who side-eye rules and regulations even when it makes no sense to do so. If those that make and enforce the law behave like bandits, why should the Kenyan on the street do so? It is important to hire clean folks. But it makes no sense to do so while the ones doing the hiring are mired in graft. The question we must ask ourselves is this: Are we prepared to bell the cat and elect and appoint Kenyans of integrity in the first place?

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