Rampant corruption in the public transport sector has been blamed on heavy fines imposed on traffic offenders by law courts.
Matatu owners and drivers from the Eastern region admitted that corruption is the order of the day on Kenyan roads and that the vice will not stop soon if urgent measures are not taken to remedy the situation.
They confessed that they part with bribes to avoid being arrested and taken to court where they get harsh penalties.
Giving their views on Wednesday during a road safety sensitisation meeting in Embu, the matatu drivers narrated how they fear being arraigned to face ruthless judicial officers.
"We give the traffic officers money when we are caught operating unroadworthy vehicles because the bribe demanded is little compared to the fine imposed," one of the owners said.
The meeting had been organised by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) and attended by the Regional Commissioner Isaiah Nakoru and top police bosses in the region.
The matatu owners explained that when they appear in court, they are fined between Sh10,000 and Sh20,000 for a single offence while a traffic officer asks for between Sh50 and Sh500 to let them go.
"Instead of being taken to court to be fleeced, we opt to give bribes to officers enforcing traffic rules,” another participant added.
They called on the national government to have the fines reviewed downwards if it is serious in eradicating graft in the matatu Sector. In response, Mr Nakoru warned that the vice will not be condoned.
"This country operates under the rule of law and we are determined to stamp out graft in the sector," he said.
The administrator warned that any matatu owner found abetting corruption will not be spared.
"It is illegal to give bribes to police to avoid being charged," he stated.
He instructed Regional Police Commander Lydia Ligami to ensure dishonest matatu owners face the full force of the law.
Mr Nakoru revealed that 3,974 passenger service vehicles operate in the region, some of which are unroadworthy.
He vowed to ensure that faulty vehicles were phased out of the roads.
"The defective vehicles are responsible for the increasing road accidents in the region and they must go. We do not want our people to continue dying in this area," he stated.
Ms Ligami pledged to have Toyota Probox cars operating as PSVs impounded and their owners prosecuted. She stressed that the cars are operating illegally and that they should be removed from the roads.
Ms Ligami also cautioned that officers found soliciting bribes from matatu drivers will face disciplinary action. NTSA Manager Joseph Gichuhi urged the matatu owners to observe traffic rules to reduce fatal crashes on the roads.
He dismissed as misleading claims that NTSA had licensed Probox cars to carry passengers.
This article was originally published by The Nation.