Free speech comes at a price but it is a price worth paying if you want to live in a democratic and free country. Here follows an oddly heartening but concerning story of police corruption: heartening in that it has been uncovered in one of Kenya’s leading newspapers; concerning that it reveals rampant police corruption; and concerning too that so few Kenyans will get to read about because of the cost of doing so.
POLICE ‘MINT MILLIONS’
The Sunday Nation last weekend led its front page with the headline, ‘Police mint millions as Kenyans die on roads’ and continued the story on pages four and five. The newspaper’s investigation appeared, it should be remembered, in the aftermath the shocking crash on the Maai Mahiu-Narok road last Thursday in which 41 people died horrifically when a bus overturned and its roof was ripped off.
The Sunday Nation’s investigation revealed (although of course all Kenyans know it pretty much to be true anyway) that with the new, more stringent, traffic rules recently put in place, some senior policemen are pocketing up to Sh300,000 every day from bribes received from public service vehicles (PSV).
The investigation also alleged that other police officers are paid millions of shillings by PSV operating syndicates as ‘protection money’ to ensure their vehicles don’t get impounded.
One Sacco which owns 50 vehicles, The Sunday Nation report said, pays Sh100,000 every week to a police officer whose official pay is Sh40,000 per month.
‘POWERFUL CARTEL’ OF ‘GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS’
The paper also alleged that these bribery schemes involve a ‘powerful cartel’ of ‘government officials outside the police force who have collectively turned the public transport sector into a money minting machine’.
One result of this corruption and other practices is, as the Sunday Nation pointed out, that unserviceable and unroadworthy vehicles, and buses carrying too many passengers, are able to operate on Kenya’s roads as long as backhander’s are paid to the police, and this in turn can and does lead to the deaths of many people on our roads.
CONGRATULATIONS TO THE SUNDAY NATION
The Kenya Forum has often been highly critical of the way our nation’s newspapers do and do not report the news properly and fail in their role of ‘investigative journalism’ (for one of the most glaring cases of this see the Forum’s posting of 27 May this year – ‘TJRC’s Dramatic Finding About Dr Ouko’s Murder’) but we congratulate the Sunday Nation and its reporter Mugome Munene who wrote the story, for bringing the scourge of police corruption out into the open.
THE COST OF NEWSPAPERS AND FREE SPEECH PLUS 16%
One problem, however, is that so few Kenyans will get to read the Sunday Nation’s expose. We are back the question of the VAT Act 2013 (see the Forum’s article posted yesterday) and in this particular case the cost of newspapers, or if you like, the cost of free speech.
With 16% VAT now charged on newspapers your favourite Kenyan daily will now cost you Sh60. Many Kenyans who are lucky enough to have a job, earn about Sh300 to Sh400 per day. To buy a newspaper the average working Kenyan will have to fork out 15%-20% of his or her daily pay and to earn that money work for around 1.5 hours.
The Kenya Forum compared these figures with the situation in the USA, France and the UK, by way of example. Depending on which newspapers they buy, a person employed on the minimum hourly rate in these countries would pay between 1% and 2% of their daily wage for a newspaper and only have to work between six and 12 minutes to earn enough to pay it.
The Kenya Forum therefore urges its readers to read the Sunday Nation’s report via this link and to pass it on, free of charge via the internet and email, in the cause of free speech, transparency and democracy.