How to Curb Public Service Vehicle Highway Corruption
Blamuel Njururi – Managing Consultant, IPS Road Safety, Nairobi May 8, 2017
Police corruption runs through the veins and arteries of hardcore ranks of cartels within the entire service and formations willing to defend it with guns if need be
Police over the last two years have left no doubt that the most shameless corrupt public servants are Traffic Police. The vetting has also revealed that police corruption transforms many into millionaires quicker than many businesses except narcotics and land cartels.
Evidence gathered by the National Police Service Commission (NPSC) during vetting sessions and bank accounts deposits as well as frequent MPesa telephony receipts and transfers show clearly that corruption within traffic police runs into billions of shillings annually. In other words Corruption within the police ranks is a multi-billion-shilling enterprise.
Worse police corruption runs through the veins and arteries of hardcore ranks of cartels within the entire service and formations willing to defend it with guns if need be. That was best demonstrated by armed police in three vehicles who cocked their guns to free colleagues apprehended by the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (EACC) officers near Athi River town.
The three police officers were dramatically rescued by their colleagues after the EACC officials had nabbed them for taking bribes from motorists along the busy Nairobi-Mombasa highway. The men in blue were rescued from the jaws of the EACC officials after being caught with about KSh28,000 bribery money in Athi River on September 10, 2015. The corrupt officers’ armed colleagues arrived in three police vehicles to rescue them and took them to an unknown destination.
The rogue officers were however, unable to recover the bribe money and their colleagues’ mobile phones, which were still in the possession of the EACC officials. EACC spokesperson Yassin Amaro later said the commission reported the matter at the Athi River police station and were determined to net the rogue cops again. The police officers were urged to surrender before matters got uglier after the dramatic scene witnessed by the roadside shocked everyone.
Relationship between police officers and EACC officials is at a very low ebb as the anti-graft officers have vigorously pursued corrupt police, who are charged with enforcing the country’s security, law and order. The commission is seeking to assert itself in its fight against corruption in the country.
The EACC officials have in recent months actively pursued cases of corruption in the public. In another incident drama unfolded at the Giacai section of the Kutus-Kerugoya road when an armed traffic policeman fled at a terrific speed to avoid arrest by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) officers.
The policeman fled into a nearby maize plantation in broad day light panting like an antelope being chased by a lion while still holding onto his AK47 assault rifle. Area residents who rushed to the scene said they were told by the fleeing officer that they had been attacked by armed robbers along with his colleague.
“What is it that you are running away still holding your gun?” John Kiragu, who was in the neighborhood asked the fleeing officer.
The eye witness said he was tending his shamba when suddenly he heard someone running very fast in his maize plantation only to realize he was a policeman though one would have mistaken him for a 100 meter race champion.
The witness said the officer who was panting responded that there were armed robbers he was fleeing from before he disappeared from the vicinity.
His colleague was however, not lucky after he was cornered and upon search, the officers found Shs. 20,000 all in Shs. 50 note denomination. A private vehicle, the two were using was also towed to the nearby Kerugoya police station where the suspect was also booked in.
A senior EACC officer from Nairobi promised the EACC officers would not rest until the armed officer on the run was apprehended and taken to Court. “He can run anywhere but I promise Kenyans he will soon run out of breath and surrender more so when he is still having a weapon in his hands”, the officer said.
In yet another incident a police officer in Kwale county swallowed a bundle of notes after being cornered by EACC officials. Regional EACC boss Hassan Khalid said they put constable police George Ochieng under 24 hours supervision in order to retrieve the evidence when he relieves himself.
Then Kinango OCPD Justin Nyaga’s driver, is said to have dropped his boss before stopping a charcoal dealer for allegedly committing traffic offences on September 10, 2015. He is said to have taken the dealer Dzenga Mohamed’s national ID and driving license and demanded to be paid money in order to release them.
In September 2014. Five Nairobi based traffic police officers were arrested by EACC detectives for demanding bribes from motorists on Waiyaki Way. The five were arrested with Sh5,000 hardly an hour after they had set up their base at 8am.
Such incidents are so frequent that no one within the National Police Service can convince anyone that police reforms mean anything at all. The hide and seek game between the EACC and Traffic police continued unabated vetting or no vetting yet Highway Corruption can be stopped in a very short time in a simple way.
Later this year when the new Parliament convenes IPS road Safety will petition the August house to amend the Traffic Act to include a clause that will require Traffic Police and all others in a habit of harassing Public Transport Vehicles as well as private motorists on Kenyan highway. Police officers detaining vehicles when operators or owners refuse to pay bribes will be held accountable for any financial losses incurred as a result of detaining road worthy vehicles without defects. They will individually compensate vehicle owners for any financial losses incurred as a result of their road worthy vehicles being detained unlawfully.
The amendment will put an end to such habits as non-traffic police officers converting themselves into highway patrol units and detaining PSV and private vehicles or driving licences of those who refuse to pay bribes. It will also create a special unit to respond to complaints by vehicle owners falling victims of corrupt police officers on roads.
Vehicle owners falling victims of rogue officers will be better advised to take photographs of their vehicles at the police stations to prevent damage by malicious officers. They will also be advised to demand an inspection of their vehicles by the Divisional Traffic Officer (DTO) immediately they are detained at a police stations to establish defects if any.
The moment individual police officers realize they will be liable to pay for any financial losses incurred because of detaining vehicles solely to extract bribes, corruption would reduce drastically as few will dare engage in such practice. To avoid any harassment by police, PSV owners will also be required to maintain their vehicles in road worthy condition.
Indeed, Inspector General Joseph Boinett has a small unit at Jogoo House experimenting on the punitive approach in which police officers detaining vehicle to extract bribes are held to account. In Nairobi City Hopper was a frequent victim but after being advised to maintain their vehicles in tip top condition and report whenever unfairly impounded, cops are no longer a bother to them.
If this system is publicized to PSV Saccos and implemented in a forthright manner Highway Corruption would be history in Kenya within a few months. Well maintained vehicles would be a big advantage to commuters and commercially beneficial to their owners.
Can anyone answer this question by the chairman of National Police Service Commission Johnstone Kavuludi on Traffic Police?
If your answer is that they are driven by unbridled greed for quick riches, you are right but it has more to do with lack of personal moral decay. That is why Inspector General Boinett efforts to fight highway corruption can only be taken with a pinch of salt.
On October 18, 2016, Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinett threatened to arrest a matatu operator who blatantly confessed, before the State House Corruption and Governance Summit that he had been bribing police officers every morning in Nairobi.
John Macharia, in a bid to illustrate how deep rooted corruption was in the matatu industry, stated that he had always been parting with Sh800 for every trip he makes along the Kayole-Nairobi route and in return, police assist him in committing crime.
“Traffic police do not wake up to control traffic or do what they are mandated to do. They wake up in the morning to come and collect bribes from our buses,” Macharia firmly stated adding, “Some officers stop me, get into my vehicle and ask me, unataka kueka abiria wapi (where do you want to drop passengers)? Whether on the pavement, kwa stage or wherever…they assist me commit an offence”.
To the surprise of the audience who included President Uhuru Kenyatta, a seemingly angered Boinett immediately hit back stating that the driver ought to be behind bars for admitting to several crimes.
“I wish I had time to arrest this guy because he has made several confessions. He should be in a police station heading to court,” the Inspector General said instead of soliciting for more details to pursue the corrupt police.
Boinett’s remarks were, however, not taken kindly by the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) Chairman Macharia Njeru who vowed to strongly defend the driver should the IG make good his threat.