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What the white-collar fraternity must do to tackle corruption

By Irene Wanyoike | May 25th 2018
The heart of the matter. Behind every corrupt dealing, there is a professional involved. [File, Standard]

A story is told of an ancient Chinese Emperor who had no children but needed to choose a successor. To do so, thousands of children from across the kingdom were gathered together at his palace one day where the emperor broke the news that his successor would be picked from among them.

To achieve this, each child was given a seed and was told to go back to their village, plant the seed in a pot and tend it for a year.  In a year, the children would return to the palace and the emperor would judge their efforts and choose his successor.

Integrity test

After a year, the children returned with blossomed and impressive plants in their pots; apart from one boy who, having religiously tended to his seed, returned with an empty pot.

The emperor, having inspected the work of the children, singled out the empty pot and the child who had tended it for the rest to see.

He then proceeded to say, “A year ago, I gave you all a seed.  I told you to go away, plant the seed and return with your plant. The seeds that I gave you all were boiled until they were no longer viable and wouldn’t grow, but I see before me thousands of plants and only one barren pot. Integrity and courage are more important values for leadership than proud displays,” he said. And so, the young man who returned with an empty pot become the emperor’s successor.

In their wisdom, the drafters of the 2010 Constitution found it prudent to expressly include a chapter on leadership and integrity with the aim of laying a legal basis upon which the entrenchment of the same across the country would take place.

They further went on to establish an article on national values and principles of governance to act as a guide on what we ought to embrace as values and the principles we should employ in governance.

An exhaustive evaluation reveals that these two provisions of the Constitution are related, intertwined and almost inseparable.

They offer a well-thought out guide on how the country ought to approach leadership and governance issues in a bid to have a cohesive country that is led by certain principles in all its undertakings.

However, eight years after the promulgation of the Constitution, we are still plagued by the same issues which these constitutional provisions sought to fix.

Our social, political and economic fabric remains fragile.

Unless, and until, Kenyan professionals lead the movement to enhance the ideals of integrity, good governance, and ethics, the country’s vision of enhancing food security, according the citizenry affordable housing, providing universal health care for all and enhancing manufacturing – as espoused under President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Action Plan - will remain unattained.

For behind every corrupt dealing, there is a professional involved.

Every Kenyan professionals should look inwardly and assess the role they can play to enhance the enforcement of integrity and ethics at the workplace.

This will not only see a significant reduction in impropriety at the work place, but it will also lead to a significant enhancement of efficiency through reduced corruption and other practices that seek to undermine the integrity of processes and structures in our institutions.

It is for this reason that the National Professional Convention, a conference organized by the Association Of Professional Societies In East Africa which will be held in July this year in Nairobi, and which shall seek to distil the role of professionals in leadership and integrity, is timely.

The outcome of this convention is to have professionals taking up a more active, proactive and engaging role in enhancing and enforcing the tenets of Chapter Six of the Constitution in a bid to significantly reduce, issues of corruption at the work place, and indeed the country by extension.

The way forward

With deliberations of the conference culminating in a declaration and a position paper which will be presented to both Parliament and the Executive for review, further deliberation and consequent adoption, it is our belief that the ultimate outcome of the convention will be the adoption, by all professionals in both the public and private sector, of the resolve to enhance the leadership and integrity principles that are set out in the constitution.

It is only by taking such deliberate steps that professionals will significantly contribute to the fight against corruption in the country.

Ms Wanyoike is the Chairperson of the Council of the Association of Professional Societies in East Africa (APSEA).

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