Our country is no stranger to petty bribery. Some would even say it is an integral - albeit very ugly - part of our culture.
Have you ever paid a few extra bob to get some paperwork that you needed in a government office? Maybe even a few thousand shillings to get your child into a better school or university?
If I had to bet, I would say that almost every adult in the country knows someone that has paid a police officer a small sum to avoid getting in trouble for a traffic incident.
Some people see this as harmless, or even just a fact of life. If everyone else is doing it, why shouldn’t I? If the sums are relatively insignificant and do not hurt the bank account too much, why shouldn’t we use whatever means we have to give ourselves and our children an extra push?
This logic is very problematic. Rarely can we name a moment in history when a nation’s herd mentality helped that country. More often than not, it is to their detriment.
We must stop thinking like the herd and each make the personal decision to work on being as ethical as possible. Bribery helps the rich get richer. It keeps people with means out of trouble, and by setting the norm for what legal grey areas are culturally acceptable, it locks out people from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
The more we tolerate petty bribery, the more it will be tolerated in the nation’s upper echelons. The anti-corruption campaign is a great step forward, but there is only so much it can help if normal people continue to hand over money in order to fulfil implicit requests.
The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission has released a list of the top counties in which Kenyans can easily pay bribes to attain their desires.
Tana River holds the number one spot at 3.76 per cent. Closely following that is Kilifi at 2.17 per cent. A person in Lamu is least likely to get away with paying a bribe at 1.9 per cent. Other countries that suffer from high likelihood of bribery on the local, unofficial level include Kisii, Vihiga, Garissa, Laikipia and Mandera.
In Tana River, Migori, Kilifi, Kisii, Laikipia, and Wajir, there is very high likelihood of bribery to high level institutions in exchange for favours.
In Wajir, the average amount paid to a local for a bribe is Sh14,353. This is followed closely by Kitui and Kericho.
These figures are disheartening. But the EACC report does offer some good news. In 2016, the average amount paid for a bribe in Kenya was Sh5,648. In 2017, that figure decreased to Sh5,000 and sank to Sh2,711 in 2018, the most recent year measured.
This indicates that the government’s anti-corruption campaign has been continuously gaining steam since it began. But the government’s main responsibility is to focus on the head honchos that act as though they are untouchable.
It is no longer possible to make a simple phone call to get rid of your problems. Get out of jail free cards are being relegated to the past, where they belong - Kenya is not a monopoly game.
Many people comment on news and social media that the anti-corruption campaign is not yet effective. Though most of us are victims of corruption here, a great deal of us are also implicitly guilty.
We must cease to act in a hypocritical way by letting bribery slide. Let us measure the government’s success by our own yardstick. What have you done recently to change the culture of corruption? Does bribery serve you?
It might, in the short term, but in the long term it is injurious to all of us. Those who want the country to be transformed by Uhuru’s anti-corruption campaign must make it a personal duty.
Our efforts will eventually improve trust in the country by outside businesses and foreign governments. We will see an increase in trade and investments and assure the world that Kenya is the gateway to Africa. Most importantly of all, it is our responsibility to leave the country to our children in better shape than we found it.
The young generation does not deserve to be penalised for our mistakes. So let us all finally say, imetosha! Bribery cannot continue.
Mr Mugolla comments on topical issues. Email:[email protected]