Mediocrity is Africa’s undoing

A railway company in Japan, Tsukuba Express, issued an apology to its customers when one of its trains delayed departure by 20 seconds yet a local government mandarin would rather die than resign for misappropriating billions of funds for victims of HIV/Aids

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BY DAVID ONJILI

A report released last November by the World Internal Security and Police Index (WISPI) has ranked the Kenya National Police Service as the third most corrupt in the world at number 124 of the 127 ranked Police Services. Singapore was ranked best at number one as Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland all made the top ten. Interestingly, Botswana, the best ranking African country came in at 47 with Rwanda at 50. Africa dominated the worst ranked nations with Nigeria’s force being the most corrupt at 127, followed by Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Uganda was the 4th most corrupt after Kenya at 123.

This ranking does not surprise, especially at a time when our police have been guilty of killing innocent Kenyans exercising their democratic right to demonstrate. Amongst the victims has been eight-month-old baby Samantha Pendo, who succumbed to injuries on her head after being hit by a police baton.

Of course the local police bosses have come out to defend themselves and distance the Service from such a ‘false’ report. While the nations that had their forces as least corrupt dominate the world with strong economy and development, Africa lags behind in the same big time.

Corruption and poverty have a direct correlation; the more corrupt a nation is the poorer it is. Nothing expressly brings this point home like examining African countries for instance Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya and our neighbours Uganda. On the converse, Denmark, Netherlands, Canada, Sweden, Singapore and Finland are ranked as some of the wealthiest nations in the world. Coincidentally some of the best-ranked nations like Sweden and Netherlands are even closing doors to prisons because the level of crimes warranting jail terms are almost extinct. Corruption cases are majorly unheard of and even when they are reported… the punishment is severe and prompt. Enron CEO Mr Jeffrey Skilling was sentenced for more than 24 years in 2006, although after several appeals his sentence has been reviewed.

Government documents reported by Dutch paper Telegraaf revealed plans to shut 5 jails, a move that would render close to 1900 prison staff unemployed. The Dutch Minister for Security and Defence linked the closures to judges issuing shorter sentences to culprits and more importantly a general decline of crime in Netherlands that averaged 0.9% crimes in a year.

In 2009, Netherlands had closed eight jails and as at 2014 they further shut down nineteen others. Sweden on its part, between the years 2004 and 2011 saw the number of prisoners fall by 1% and in 2013, they closed four. By the year 2012, the number of prisoners fell by 6%. Just like the Netherlands, more lenient sentences from judges and fewer crimes were reported here. It was also noted that the nations lay more emphasis on rehabilitation of offenders and not punishment so that they would be assimilated back to society as better individuals.

Kenya’s Treasury, for instance, through its principal secretary Mr Kamau Thugge revealed in November 2017 through court papers that they had not approved a private company, Goldrock Capital to collect revenue on its behalf, a role that is the sole preserve of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA). The eCitizen, an online portal through which the government provides essential services like issuing of passports, driving licenses and business registrations does not have its approval to do so!! It is in public domain, that Goldrock through this ‘agreement’ has collected an amount estimated to be in the range of Sh5.6 billion since 2014 under the eCitizen platform. How does something like this go on? It requires parliamentary approval for any company to undertake such a task that is only reserved for KRA – coincidence or collusion?

The collection of taxes and prudent utilization is the foundation on which a nation is able to provide services like educaton, transport, security and healthcare to its citizens. If there are loopholes in the collection and utilization, and those guilty of misappropriation only given a slap on the wrist or a blind eye turned to it, then a nation cannot provide such services to its citizens. This explains why the political class will jump into the first plane and go abroad for treatment because the public health of the country has been neglected.

They forget that when you are in an emergency, the neglected health facilities will be the first to come to your recue before the fancy private medical covers they subscribe to. How many politicians can take their children to public schools? Few if not none, they know that they have neglected these institutions and thus cannot have their own there yet claim to care about their electorate. Lecturers at our public universities can no longer trust the children’s education with the same universities.

In Kenya as in major poor nations world over, it is a comical scenario. Instead of those guilty of crimes facing competent investigations from the responsible organs and prosecution executed, this is a country of many unclosed files. A country where you can easily bribe a judge to rule in your favour is a country on the precipice. Companies have been bankrupted by individuals who remain free and some are even given state appointments or absorbed into boards of other companies as experts. What madness!

When the government contracts a mobile phone operator to install cctv cameras within the Nairobi Central Business District, it is expected that the same will be used to nab criminals. Coincidentally, Kenyans have been murdered under the ‘watchful’ eye of these cameras and no one has been brought to book. Is it that the cameras do not function or that there are no qualified individuals to monitor them or that they are being sabotaged? Whatever the case, tax payer’s money used to install them has gone down the drain and lined pockets of a few individuals at the expense of service delivery.

In the 2016 Transparency International report, it was noted and with great concern that the Judiciary, Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (EACC) and the office of Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) were extremely corrupt either by participating or turning a blind eye. Never mind that the listed institutions are responsible for investigating, prosecuting and adjudicating corruption cases.

We have politicians and individuals whose ministries; namely Devolution, Health, Immigration have all been suspected to have abated the loss of billions of taxpayers money and yet no prosecution has ever been concluded. Look at an institution like the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission (EACC), when have they ever concluded their investigations? Where they have, allegedly, when have you seen culprits return stolen cash or even face jail terms. EACC is a classic example of using good money, (a lot of it) to chase for bad money (which is never found). It is such weak institutions that contribute to the impoverishment of the nation by aiding in the loss of billions of taxpayers money.

We must inculcate in ourselves a culture of absorbing merit and not furthering nepotism. European and Asian nations are global leaders in science and trade because they employ people based on their competence. The moment you choose to employ your tribesmen into critical government dockets at the expense of merit, you pave the way to substandard service delivery. It is this culture of mediocrity that explains why there are many elephants on top of many corporate institutions in Kenya and when the nation continues to sink in public debt and corruption, we act surprised when we are content with the ‘it’s our time to eat’ mentality.

Ponder this; a railway company in Japan, Tsukuba Express, issued an apology to its customers when one of its trains delayed departure by 20 seconds. The train designated to leave at 09:44:20 left at 09:44:40 after one of its staff forgot to check the departure time when it had made a stop. I can see the fuse in your face. Of course, that would be a miracle if it were to happen in any of the African countries mediocrity is the norm.