We talk so much about corruption and its corrosive effects on our society, economy and country. There is a lot of debate on how to raise the price of corruption to make it less attractive. One way is to secure convictions. But there is an area we often overlook. Corruption has become so pervasive and, arguably, endemic because our institutions have been run down to such an extent that they have become willing and veritable handmaidens for this malfeasance.
It is wrong, and almost self-righteous, to state that corruption is largely a product of the public sector. It is conducted by both public and private sector players, individually and collectively, and often as willing, consenting and cooperating partners. Let me give an example. I am in a group that is involved in a battle against a Chinese road construction company and the National Environment Management Authority (Nema).
The latter gave permission for the erection and operation of a base camp, commonly referred to as a campsite, in a residential area on Ngong Road, in Karen to be precise, opposite a property owned by the Kenyatta family. This has, questionably — indeed, arguably illegally — been converted into an industrial operation. It is worth pointing out that other parties may well also be involved but, for one reason or another, may turn a blind eye. The Kenya Urban Roads Authority (Kura), too, has so far not cancelled its licence in spite of evidence of the breaches to the conditions given.
In short, the relevant company applied to Nema for a variation of the licence from campsite status to one where it could operate a GCS mixing plant on an industrial basis. Nema granted the request when, in fact, the procedure is for the company to apply for a separate licence afresh under the relevant category and with the necessary supporting data.
It did not. In connivance with Nema, this company obtained an amendment of the ‘campsite’ licence to include an industrial operation. In layman terms, it amended a licence for being a depot and parking space to one allowing an industrial cement mixing plant complete with noise, dust, noxious vapours and assorted pollutants in a residential area.
The ultimate irony of this is that it was facilitated by an institution mandated “to bring harmony in the management of the country’s environment” and “to be the principle instrument of the Government of Kenya in the implementation of all policies relating to the environment”.
Examples abound. Last Monday, the Daily Nation published a series of articles on how Lake Victoria is becoming a dumping ground for some of the region’s sewerage. Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company (Kiwasco) is one of the many suppliers of pollution alongside agro-based industries, Kodiaga Prison and Maseno University.
Let us just step back a little. Lake Victoria, which is a veritable lifeline to many, is being choked to death by the pollution that is being poured into it by the many entities which, by law, should be treating their effluent. Thirteen types of toxic waste are flowing into the lake. The water of Lake Victoria is increasingly polluted and unsafe and the largest tropical freshwater lake and second-largest freshwater lake in the world is fast becoming one of the largest sewers in the world!
National and county governments, through several regulatory bodies, have, in theory, the oversight authority to stop this pernicious murder of Lake Victoria but are not. Some of our oversight and regulatory institutions are so rotten that the talk is not about what they are supposed to be doing but the informal ‘fee’ charged for them to let one flout the regulations and break the laws that they should uphold.
The second front on fighting corruption must be the restoring and cleaning up of these many institutions so that they do what they are mandated to do and not what they are not supposed to.
Last, but not the least, Nema must be subjected to this purge.
This article was originally published on The Daily Nation.