Corruption, lapses in regulatory bodies will collapse the country

In the words of Frank Herbert, the American Science fiction author, “Good governance never depends on laws, but upon the personal qualities of those who govern. The machinery of government is always subordinate to the will of those who administer that machinery…”

These wise words indict the quality and efficiency of all public officers trusted with the duty of preventing the disaster of the gas explosion in Embakasi that killed and injured scores of Kenyans and destroyed properties.

To many reasonable people, this would have been a preventable disaster if we had strong, ethical and effective regulatory bodies. The efficacy of the laws and regulations is dependent of the quality and character of persons in position and the environment in which they are implemented.

World over, the work of government is to regulate human activities. Government regulatory bodies are vanguards of public interest. They are charged with the responsibilities of protecting, among others, public health, safety and security.

That is why they are endowed with powers to enforce the regulations and sanction rogue entities. Therefore, any time a preventable disaster such as this occurs, the public agencies responsible should bear the blame and shame.  

The rationale of establishing such agencies is to curb and guard against destructive actions of human activities and interests.

If left unregulated, the selfish human decision often destroys the collective interest of society. That is why any malfunction and lapses coming from these agencies will destroy the country. 

However, it is disheartening to see how such pertinent questions on the accountability, conduct and efficiency of such agencies easily fizzle from the public discourse only to witness the next disaster. The stories of failure by regulators are now an accepted norm in Kenya.

The cases of buildings collapsing; the reports of the sugar laced with mercury in markets; the Solai dam flood tragedy and the scores of road carnage are some of the notable cases that point to serious lapses of the regulators.

The question that begs an answer is what makes such critical agencies sleep on the job? The most obvious answers are that such agencies are functionally inefficient or are compromised and thus play into the hands of those they ought to regulate.

The two factors are also mutually reinforcing. Corruption and bribery work on reciprocity, the parties involved have to pay back something. For the corrupt public officers, they reciprocate to the bribe giver by not executing their jobs effectively. And thus, the failure by public bodies.  

When government institutions are characterised by general governance malaise, ineptitude and corruption, the effective delivery of public goods remains in jeopardy.

The destruction occasioned by such failures is enormous and takes huge efforts, resources and time to reverse. It is now apparent that Kenyan institutions have accepted the art of lapses in regulations ostensibly precipitated by institutionalised inefficiencies and corruption.

In the unfortunate case of the gas explosion, information from the open sources points to the failure of the regulators. The mere fact that such a dangerous commodity was kept and loaded in a densely populated residential area is prima facie evidence of the lapses of the regulators.

This should not be seen as an isolated case. These are symptoms of the sickness of the regulatory institutions occasioned by corruption, influence peddling and other irregular motives.

The rot is bigger and entrenched. Any serious policymaker should consider this as a wake-up call and avoid reactions meant to scratch the service.

Address the deep culture of governance malaise characterising public institutions. It requires serious cleanup and strong political will.

Certainly, impunity should not be tolerated. Certainty of punishment is a strong deterrent against the acts of evil enterprises. All those found culpable should be deal with decisively.

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