IG Koome's graft 'war' is hot air

Inspector General of Police Japheth Koome

Inspector General of Police Japhet Koome making his address while engaging with Senior Police Officers on ending corruption at the Kenya School of Government, Lower Kabete. 

Photo credit: Bonface Bogita | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • More startling was Koome's admission that juniors had even tried to share the proceeds with him.
  • An honest, ethical, incorruptible man is what the police service needs if it is to finally tame the monster within.

Anyone seeing Inspector-General of Police Japhet Koome’s admission last week that corruption was still rife in the service would be forgiven for assuming the top cop has just made a stunning discovery. 

In which case, the only conclusion one would draw is that Mr Koome has been in deep slumber throughout his 32 years in the service, leave alone the 11 months he has been at the helm.

The fact, however, is that he rose to IG knowing full well the level of corruption amongst his colleagues and vowing to tame it once and for all. His statement last week thus reveals not so much determination to tackle graft among police officers but the plain fact that he has done nothing tangible in that regard since taking office. 

And this is where one must ask if he is part of the solution or part of the problem.

Mr Koome has, apparently, only just discovered that the police service he heads is actually an organised crime syndicate. Junior officers on the beat are deployed to do nothing more on daily basis but line the roads extracting bribes from matatu operators and other motorists, with the ‘returns’ filtering upwards to station commanders and onwards to district and regional bosses.

Mr Koome takes pride in having started off as a police constable and rising all the way up to the IG rank. He has been on foot patrol. He has served in various stations and different departments. He must have, for the more than three decades, known every nook and cranny of the service and the secrets that lie within. He cannot just have suddenly stumbled on the ‘returns’ network.

Police corruption

More startling was his admission — while addressing fellow officers at a forum called to address corruption within — that juniors had even tried to share the proceeds with him.

“Some have even come to my office trying to give me something but I refused,” he revealed. “We must end this. Colleagues, it comes a time when we say enough is enough.”

Very good. An honest, ethical, incorruptible man is what the police service needs if it is to finally tame the monster within. But wait a minute … did Mr Koome simply say ‘No’ and send the officers away? 

This story stinks to high heaven in the absence of confirmation that officers who visited their IG to share proceeds of crime were immediately arrested and taken to court! If those fellows are not behind bars, it follows that Mr Koome’s polite refusal to take ‘something small’ simply freed them to go back to the streets and continue the life of crime. 

Mr Koome owes us all an explanation. He also needs to revisit the fighting words he uttered against police corruption during his confirmation hearings last November. Then, he told a joint committee of the National Assembly and the Senate that he was aware entrenched corruption was rampant and vowed to tackle it. 

“This is a matter that has been in the public domain for a long time. We are at a point where we must stamp authority and eliminate corruption,” he said, promising to take the bull by the horns if appointed IG.

What Mr Koome should be telling us today is what he has achieved in efforts to eliminate the vice within his first year in office, not singing the Song of Lamentations and parroting hackneyed promises. 

Flagrant defiance

But he has done nothing; he has achieved zero. If anything, he has been the biggest impediment to efforts aimed at rooting out corruption and instilling honour, dignity, ethics and professionalism in those under his command.

If there is one thing that has consumed IG Koome’s time and energy, it is not cleaning up the National Police Service (NPS) but protecting it from accountability mechanisms. 

His tenure has been marked by flagrant defiance of the institutions established by law to ensure discipline and honesty within the service. 

Koome has publicly and openly dismissed the work of the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (Ipoa) and made it clear that his men and women who may have crossed the line will not be subject to investigations by an external authority. 

And, of course, everyone knows that the Internal Affairs Unit will only do his bidding. He has also defied the role of the Police Service Commission in recruitment, transfers, promotions and disciplinary proceedings, trying to centre everything in his office.

This is the impunity that fuels unchecked corruption within the National Police Service. If the Inspector-General places himself above all oversight mechanisms, so will all those under his command sharing bribes and carrying out criminal abductions and executions.

[email protected]. @MachariaGaitho