We all seem to agree that fighting corruption is a good thing. The manner of executing the noble desire is what significantly varies, is contested and often resisted. Why?
The main approach is too legalistic. From establishing the sources of allegations, investigating the allegations, producing solid evidence and defending the evidence in a court of law is a long process that needs time and resources.
In a system so porous in terms of possibility for interfering with the process, any one of the steps can be corrupted, leading to a weak, or no case at all.
However, in addition to the legal processes, the contribution of the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in fighting corruption is underestimated.
The tendency of the government in the recent past has been to regard the civil society as an adversary. The strong government attempt to control the activities of CSOs through stringent rules on their sources of funding, programme implementation and filing of reports, particularly before the 2017 general election, is a good example of the frosty relationship between the two parties.
Non-State actors are critical drivers of social change. CSOs are not enemies of the State. Like someone who sees a police officer and begins to shake, the government’s attitude towards CSOs can be construed to mean there is something the government wants to hide from organisations seeking greater accountability.
CSOs in the governance sector, by and large, are specialised groups that aim to advocate and lobby for just policies and improved government service delivery.
Most of these groups are donor-driven so as to push for the promotion of equity, accountability and transparency. That they are donor-driven does not mean they are pushing for a foreign agenda. In fact, our governments are extensively donor-driven more than CSOs.
To fight corruption, the government should create an enabling environment for CSOs to track incidents of corruption and inform relevant authorities. The first relevant authority are the Kenyans themselves. Empowered Kenyans with relevant information can be the best agents in fighting corruption.
The laws on the powers of citizens to actively participate in civic engagement are well articulated under the principle of public participation.
The government, though it mandates itself to conduct civic education, hardly empowers its own people to demand greater accountability from the executive arm of counties and the national government. Governments tend to go slow in educating people about their rights for the simple reason that power is sweet and must be retained.
The main actors to drive the agenda of accountability and transparency ought to be the CSOs who bridge the distance between the elected leaders and the citizens on matters of good governance. CSOs offer civic education right from the grassroots to the middle class and to the elite at various levels.
Corruption is both a complex science and art. Without relevant, reliable and timely information, most of us ordinary Kenyans cannot unravel crime in government institutions.
CSOs can use their knowledge and networks to get the information. With this information, they can empower us to demand for greater accountability and transparency.
The government should therefore revisit its understanding and place of the CSOs in the fight against corruption. Every Kenyan needs to be brought on board if at all the government is committed to its pronounced desire to eradicate corruption. No one is too small to be ignored in fighting corruption.
For the CSOs to be effective in contributing to the fight against corruption, the government needs to do three things: give them space to operate in the counties as well as at the national level.
Second, offer them protection when they face resistance from people who misappropriate funds, and third, encourage the international community to fund them.
Of course, like anywhere else, some CSOs could be out there pushing suspect agenda. But most of them are run by Kenyans of great conviction that a better Kenya is possible.
Given the support they need, particularly the freedom to assemble, the freedom to expression and the freedom to demand for information from government offices for purposes of seeking greater accountability and transparency, the CSOs can significantly contribute to reduction in corruption.
Dr Mokua comments on social justice issues
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