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Monday, 3 February 2014

Where Graft is King

No end to corruption
for Traffic Police Officers

By Anchor Reporters

EVEN as Traffic Rules exist, the counties of Machakos, Kitui and Makueni remain largely lawless areas as Matatu operators connive with Traffic Police to break the rules, enriching both groups immensely.

A survey by The Anchor reporters indicate that Matatus plying routes in the interior of the counties carry excess passengers and bribe their way so that policemen face the other direction and give them way.
It is the same story on virtually every route- Machakos- Wote, Machakos- Kitui, Machakos-Matuu, Machakos- Kangundo and other routes that get to the interior.
The same is the case with routes to the interior of Makueni County from Wote and from Kitui Town to other remote centers including Mwingi.
It is only on the route to Nairobi that there is some level of caution-not compliance. Matatu drivers give Sh 50 for the 14 - seater Matatu and Sh 100 for the bigger vehicles and the fee paid to police goes to Sh 150 for busses. They also take lesser amounts from Tuktuk and cyclists.  “ It is like they own the roads. If you bribe them, they allow you to do business unhindered for the day”, said a Tuktuk operator in Machakos who does not want to be named and adds that bribing traffic police is Kenya’s open secret
“It is routine to give this bribe for you to get passage even when your vehicle has complied with regulations. If you fail, they will find something wrong with you and you will not work for a week. So we give this cash even before they ask. The practice is so common place that we feel guilty if we fail to give the bribe”, said a driver who did not want to be identified. To ease it all, drivers now fix a well folded note below the door handle where the police officer unhooks it from. “The lock is tight and the note cannot fall off. That is where they pick it to beat a situation where an anti-corruption official is on the prowl. They take the cash unnoticed” said a driver who spends Sh. 50 every time traffic police stop him on his way to Nairobi. Ordinarily, there are about three stops, so drivers have Sh. 150 on the ready. Woe unto you if you ply a longer route.
It is explained that the policemen take the bribe and pass it through a long winding hierarchy that reaches their commanders. “ If a policeman fails to remit dues to his superiors, he is removed from the traffic department and deployed to general duty. They keep records to see who has not been bringing the cash consistently. The more consistent one is, the greater the guarantee to remain donning the traffic cap”
The result? All police checks on the roads in Ukambani are toll stations of corruption. It is that simple. Each move to tighten rules on the road opens a new phase of corruption on our roads. Every set of new regulations result in bigger bribes and the cycle is unending.
Thus when in Kitui the Traffic Commandant Samuel Kimaru warned that traffic police officers sleeping on the job risked losing their jobs triggering a major crackdown on flouters of traffic rules it was just the mere sounding of musical chairs. No policeman will be dismissed and in fact, more bribes will find their way to officer’s pockets.
Though the crackdown spearheaded by the local Police Chief Perminus Kioi is aimed at ensuring that un-roadworthy vehicles are removed from the roads in order to stem the increasing cases of accidents, such jalopies are operating in the county daily and operators will carry excess passengers, offer bribes to the police, accidents will take place and citizens will die.
Kioi told the media that 16 owners of public service vehicles found flouting the traffic regulations were arraigned in various courts and fined total amount of Sh. 649,000.The Anchor could not independently verify this claim but it is unbelievable that Kenya’s Traffic Police have the capacity, resolve or disposition to deal with the death machines on the roads they lord over on daily basis.
Boda boda operators notorious for disregarding traffic rules were not spared either with majority opting to abandon their machines instead of risking arrests.
But within a day, they were back in a bang. Kio said 80 motorcycles operators were also arraigned in courts and collectively paid a fine of Shs 329,000. There are nearly 1,200 Boda boda operators in Kitui and they run taxi business without helmets and ride past policemen after giving bribes.
The police boss said the exercise would target passengers boarding overloaded Matatus or failing to buckle up safety belts and touts illegally working in various bus termini. But weeks later, nothing is happening in that direction. The old order returned a day after the Kimaru visit
He added that the campaign is going to run throughout the festive period to ensure the region becomes an accident-free zone, an assertion that leave a lot to be desired. Why not run it all the time as regulations exist to apply all the time?
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