Want to end corruption? Build prisons, fill them with thieves
If President Uhuru Kenyatta wants to solve all his corruption problems, he should build a prison. A big, clean, white-collar prison to which thieves can be sent without one feeling that they have been sent to their deaths.
This week, I had planned to write a fun piece about cars, but I suppose that would be wasting an opportunity to pontificate on graft — what with the scandals swirling around us.
I feel sorry for Mr Kenyatta; I really do. He speaks with total, despairing frustration about corruption amongst Kenyans and what he sees as a lack of patriotism among those who steal public funds. I think he has tried to deal with the crisis by appointing in critical positions persons he hopes are patriotic and loyal to the country and in whom he has confidence, particularly based on their background and previous experience.
That is one affective approach to the problem.
As a student of society, I think the question of how to efficiently drive a large number of people to do a multitude of complex tasks over time and do it well without deviance was canvassed and resolved many years ago. Principally by Max Weber in the late 1800s.
What you need to run a country properly and to clean out corruption is not a club of well-bred, patriotic chaps; it is a well-functioning, good, old bureaucracy.
This is the dictionary definition of bureaucracy from Encyclopedia Britannica: “Bureaucracy: Specific form of organisation defined by complexity, division of labour, permanence, professional management, hierarchical coordination and control, strict chain of command, and legal authority.
“It is distinguished from informal and collegial organisations. In its ideal form, bureaucracy is impersonal and rational and based on rules rather than ties of kinship, friendship, or patrimonial or charismatic authority.”
Rigid, formal, impersonal, rule-based, clear authority, division of labour — these are the critical ingredients of a Weberian bureaucracy.
Now, we can argue whether all that bloodless approach to the management of human beings is really necessary but it depends on whether your objective is to show people love or to get the job well done with the least fuss.
If you want efficiency and predictable outcomes, then the rigid, formal approach is the way to go. If you want a hugs, high-fives approach, where results are 50-50 at best and it is not clear which money is public and which is private since we are all brothers and sisters, then take the mom-and-pop approach.
The reason people are (allegedly) still stealing from the National Youth Service is because the people who (allegedly) stole in the Anne Waiguru scandal cycle got away with it scot-free, without the least inconvenience. It is a failure of consequence management. It matters not whether people are patriotic or not, loyal or not, so long as they follow the rules and do their jobs competently. A loyal and patriotic thief is of little value.
People are stealing from the public because it is safe to do so. They will not be caught and, if they are, they can buy their way out. If you change the dynamics and increase the risk of imprisonment, the attractiveness of corruption will fall diametrically.
Build a big jail, fill it and keep filling it until there are no more thieves left.
I read in the Star that Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko’s bodyguards had been reduced from 15 to four.
I am a great supporter of providing our leaders with the best possible security. Writer John Kamau argues that giving bodyguards to elected leaders is a democratic imperative. Somebody can defeat the will of the people and cause a by-election if there isn’t enough protection.
But 15 is a lot; it’s a whole rugby team. That’s almost two squads. I was once told that little girls in the slums of Nairobi, even those in kindergarten, go for tuition after school because it is unsafe for them to be at home without their mums. They would be defiled. So their mums drop them off at school and pick them up after work from the tuition centre. How much difference would a single police officer make in the life of many of those endangered little girls in those slums?
Our mothers, wives, daughters and neighbours are having their weaves and wigs ripped off their heads in the streets of Nairobi.
Kenya has 90,000 police officers providing protection for a population of 45 million. That means an officer is supposed to protect a whole 500 of us mere mortals. Special human beings like Mr Sonko reverse the ratios and take up 15 officers for a single man. Some British Prime Ministers have had about four guards on normal days.
Bodyguards, like chase cars, are crutches for fragile egos. The consequence is that security resources, like all other national resources, are tied up by a few people, some of them totally useless to the country.
It is right and proper to protect. But it is wrong to take away from the majority and assign armies to folks whose biggest problem is low selfesteem.
MUTUMA MATHIU It matters not whether people are patriotic or not, loyal or not, so long as they follow the rules and do their jobs competently.”