Last week, maize farmers stormed out of the Eldoret National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) depot after they were given forms to fill before their payments (amounting to Sh1.4 billion) for deliveries could be processed.
Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa had directed that the farmers be vetted. The exercise was to take place in 24 depots. Instead, the farmers demanded their payments. They threatened to hold demos if they are not paid by next week.
This is a sad state of affairs and somewhat understandable from the point of view of the many honest farmers who are being made to face one added bureaucratic hurdle before they receive desperately needed funding.
The Directorate of Criminal Investigations, the National Intelligence Service and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission have deployed officers to vet the farmers. But why were they being subjected to this needless laborious process in the first place?
It is like a supplier taking groceries to a hotel or restaurant and instead of him getting paid, he has to submit his credentials yet again.
The farmers are required to identify themselves and prove they produced the maize delivered to the NCPB. The batch is part of the Sh3.5 billion owed to them since December last year.
The Government said the move would help prevent corruption and ensure brokers and traders who delivered maize to the board do not get the cash. It targets more than 3,500 farmers.
Sadly, the farmers are paying for the sins of the cartels that have infiltrated every sector.
One would understand why farmers unused to the inconvenience such rigour cause would feel aggrieved. After all, for as far as they can remember, they have always brought their produce to the depots and got paid for it. They know each other and from the size of their farms, they can even tell the amount of the maize each brought to the NCPB.
But then they have to suffer the consequence of the greed of a few. The above example from NCPB is an indication that for the first time in many decades, we have a new way of doing things.
In the past, those in senior positions would have ample opportunity to ingratiate and enrich themselves through procurement with little oversight. Others would be able to take a ‘little off the top’ when handing out contracts frequently to family and friends. Some lower level officials would demand more payment in return for certification or other bureaucracy that was rightfully to be handed over. Unfortunately, across the country, far too many people had far too many opportunities to not play by the rules.
By all means, to win in the war on corruption, two things must happen; those who have stolen in the past must be smoked out, prosecuted and made to return what they looted. Second, we have to minimise the urge to engage in corruption. Unfortunately, it will take some time to get used to this new Kenya. This will cause a certain amount of disruption and annoyance to all.
However, in the long run and looking at the big picture, a delay here or there, or the filling out of more forms should be a small price to pay for those who want to stamp out fraud, corruption and graft. Changing the way this country deals with corruption is not a painless process, however, it is a necessary one.
Just like birth pangs, there will be pain before the arrival of a new dawn. Understanding this will take time and will be deeply frustrating for many, but we will all need to get used to it because it will ensure that greater resources will be felt by more people. If previously, during the process of receiving funding for farmers from the Government there were brokers, traders and other grafters who were stealing money earmarked for honest farmers, then stopping this process will mean more cash will be received by the farmers in the long run.
This is a gain that offsets a slightly longer waiting and vetting period, annoying though it is. We need to shrug off the parasites in the system for it to function better in future.
This is the aim of the new way of doing things in Kenya and regardless of some learning curves and slower distribution, it will provide our fellow citizens with the services they deserve.
Mr Maore is the Member of Parliament for Igembe North constituency
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