Shattered careers, worried families, frozen bank accounts, isolation, mediatised police and court appearances describe the life of public officers suspected of involvement in corruption.
The war on graft in Kenya has taken a different dimension. In addition to arrests and arraignment, the naming and shaming associated with the purge cannot be dismissed as mere publicity exercise.
The President has provided the political will that previously lacked in the fightagainst corruption, and with determined investigating and prosecuting, it is tough times for the corrupt.
The missing link, is the completion of the cases and recovery of stolen resources. Billions are being held in frozen bank accounts and unfinished projects dot the country, largely because of court cases.
Hopefully, the recent statement by the Chief Justice that graft cases will be expedited materialises.
The media have remained steadfast in unearthing scandal after scandal. To review the role media have played in accountability in Kenya over the years, this years annual media summit hosted by the Media Council of Kenya will focus on the theme Media, Accountability and Good Governance, where a number of editors and other journalists, governance experts and diplomats will share experiences.
The August 8 and 9 summit will discuss topics such as corruption in the media, threats to investigative journalists and access to information held by the government. Will the media maintain their watchdog role or become a lapdog or guard dog in the war on corruption?
Media’s role in good governance ranges from raising public awareness about corruption, its causes, consequences and possible remedies in addition to investigating, unearthing misuse of public resources.
The media have also generated sufficient pressure to force high-profile government officials to resign.
Media have reported the cost of corruption as manifested in increasing the price of administration and inefficient public expenditures, misallocation of resources and failure to achieve public sector objectives.
Without doubt, the effectiveness of the media in general and journalists in particular, depends on enhanced access to information and freedom of expression.
While the media have been very important whistle-blowers, assisting investigators with information and identities of looters, access to information held by authorities remains a challenge for the media. This frustrates journalists’ and other Kenyans’ participation in governance issues.
It also remains a nascent area for promoters of open data and campaigners of access to information, who should aim to hold the relevant authorities and players – public, private sector and civil society, to account.
This, notwithstanding, the media remain an important player in the effort and through consistent, factual and professional covering of corruption related matters, will help in creating the needed public consciousness, and in the long run concerted action from the state. —The writer works for the Media Council of Kenya