The past one month or so has been rife with reports on corruption especially as regards procurement. It’s like it has suddenly exploded from somewhere. Inflation of goods and services is not new. It’s something that has always been there only this time time it has been mired with a lot of politics. In the past I always heard reports of how government would buy things at exorbitant prices. It’s not enough to call out corrupt fellows. We must deal with the systemic issues.
In a sense we are all corrupt. In a situation of scarcity we want to make quick money and with the least effort so as to accumulate capital. It’s not just about the government. While market prices tend to be known, we always tend to hike them. We’re so good at this. Even the government overtaxes Kenyans left, right and centre such that sometimes people have no option but to over price their goods in order to make a modest profit. You import something and have to pay hefty sums in duty and tax. You produce, sell or earn a salary and have a good portion reserved for tax.
In return for votes delivered by key ethnic leaders, the incumbent is expected to reciprocate by ensuring that Politicians seek support from their ethnic constituencies so that they can delver a piece of the national cake to them. Political support must be reciprocated in kind. As politics is about the allocation of resources in whatever form. This as in Kenya’s experience could be in plum positions in government employment, offers for one’s ‘ethnic community members’ (it’s politicians and their kin who benefit the most) or in this case, dubious tender awards and sometimes to non – existent entities that never deliver.
Getting a tender to supply goods and services to institutions that have a recurrent expenditure is a shortcut to wealth. There’s an assured market with very little effort. I suspect this is not just a government issue but something that also happens in corporations. There’s bound to be conflict about who gets access to key money minting sectors.
Previously, access to government or the civil services (through leadership) has meant the ability to irregularly acquire land, ethnic patronage and access to guaranteed markets. It has not so much been about service but proximity to resources.
Tackling Corruption in the Tendering Process
So how do we deal with corruption?
Where people are devoid of ethics and integrity or do not understated certain concepts of immorality, new strategies need to be employed. In situations of unprecedented change we have to adjust to new systems so that development is possible:
- For starters, as the government has said, there should be training on ethics and what corruption is.
- Every procurement detail needs to be accessible to the public from the word go. In essence, any interference with the public financial management systems would not work because information would already be in the public domain.
- We need to make corruption shameful while reinforcing the fact that having a communal sense of belonging is a good thing. It can be done!
- Everyone involved needs to take a beating (not in the literal sense). There should be no room for impunity. That way, protection of wrong doers would cease. Maybe we would have more whistle blowers. Ask African children the consequences of covering up for their siblings’ transgressions. Communal punishment does work.
- Most important, maybe the government needs to derive its funds for recurrent expenditures from employees. With a generous amount fixed as salary, employees can ensure that goods and services are not inflated so as to get a bigger percentage of their salary. That way they can feel a pinch and will safeguard their money. Safeguarding public funds will work if we all have a sense of ownership.
- I don’t know how but we have to devise ways in which tax payers actually feel the pinch when money is squandered by the government. Tax refunds maybe? If Kenyans understood that monitoring how public funds are being used would enable them to get tax refunds, they might be motivated to care about how public money is used. Who doesn’t want their salary refunded? Maybe we won’t even need activists on payroll.
- As it seems that the effort to fight corruption is hampered because of the need to please tribal kingpins in order to win the presidential vote, perhaps the way we elect the president should be changed. It’s something to ponder about.
- Finally, Kenyans need information and education on how to get into various trades. Government is not the only viable market. The Kenyan market is big. There’s demand in every sector and we seem to be convinced that it’s only foreigners who can invest. Kenyans are capable of doing so. Even with monopolies there’s still a big chunk of the Kenyan market that is not catered for. People are always in need of better goods and services. Our number one priority should be ensuring that Kenyans have the know how to engage in every trade and sector and to help them understand the available market opportunities and to make them available.