Corruption has been a trending topic in Kenya. We have been treated to allegations of a record number of corruption scandals involving billions of shillings. If you are a patriotic citizen, you should not only be concerned but also angry.
Revelations of corruption scandals are, however, not new. The script is always almost the same: investigations commence then soon fade away. However, we must remain hopeful and focused.
While some Kenyans have given up on the fight against corruption, some are determined to make a contribution. Besides calls for decisive action against those implicated in graft, Kenyans want anti-graft institutions strengthened and procurement loopholes sealed.
The media have continued to effectively play its watchdog role not only by exposing the rot in public institutions and sustaining the corruption debate but also breaking down the cost of graft so wananchi can understand and demand accountability from duty bearers.
It is important to underscore the critical role citizens play in the anti-graft crusade. At individual level, what has been your contribution to the war against corruption?
In his inauguration address, the 35th President of the United states, John F. Kennedy, challenged Americans be active citizens “…ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
It is unfortunate that ordinary citizens who suffer most because of corruption play a passive role in fighting it. If we have to make an impact, this must change. There are many ways in which citizens can exert their power, public participation being one.
The Constitution of Kenya 2010 gives sovereign power to the people. This power may be exercised directly or through democratically elected representatives. If citizens took up their role seriously, accountability mechanisms would be enhanced.
Effective public participation can improve service delivery, increase credibility of public officers, nurture a sense of belonging among citizens and most importantly improve awareness of community needs and how government responds to those needs.
To ensure that this succeeds, duty bearers should facilitate this process. They should ensure the existence of opportunities for citizens to participate and engage in matters affecting their lives, provide timely information to citizens on critical issues and provide resources to facilitate public participation. Citizens who are better informed of corruption within their political systems are able to fight it more effectively as well as develop their own strategies to do so.
Social media have become a powerful means of holding leaders to account — thus an effective public participation tool. Social media allow citizens to speak up about their concerns and access information on corruption. Attention can be raised using hashtags, blogs, petitions, video and other channels.
Fighting corruption is not an easy task. All have a role to play and must move from the perception that fighting graft is the responsibility for a few individuals or institutions.
—The writer works with Transparency International Kenya —[email protected] )