Professionals must shun graft

Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi

Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi. Kenya’s Judiciary has faced myriad allegations of corruption..

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

One institution that has faced myriad allegations of corruption is the Judiciary. This is the citadel of justice in a country and should never be associated with corruption in any shape or form.

However, inasmuch as Kenyans think the biggest problem in the Judiciary are the bent magistrates and judges, I believe the cradle of corruption within it is the body of lawyers. I commented on an incident I had with a law firm in Kenya once.

Despite the legal fees demanded from me, the law firm expected a little extra money (chai) to get my file ‘pushed’. I guess this meant having the opportunity for my file to be prioritised over, perhaps, clients who were not willing to bribe or have no money to bribe.

I never bribe, on principle. No lawyer should encourage their clients to bribe. It is their job to stand for justice, not corruption. If anything, they should name and shame the corrupt judges.

Lawyers in Kenya should be under even more scrutiny given number of lawyers who have been implicated in exacerbating corruption within State corporations.

This occurs through inflated legal fees and at times for no services offered. The source of many financial crimes in parastatals seems to be the legal departments that outsource legal services to cronies and friends who work as lawyers.

It is worse in some counties, where outsourcing of legal services has led to chunks of the county budgets being used to pay for questionable legal fees rather than essential services such as health.

Medical professionals are, regrettably, also among the most corrupt professionals in Kenya, especially in public hospitals. Demand for bribes by nurses and doctors before they can offer treatment to the public are rife.

Allegations of unwanted medical procedures being performed, particularly on women during childbirth, for financial gain is also very common. Sadly, the professional bodies in charge of nurses and doctors remain silent as patients are harmed by unnecessary medical procedures.

The challenges Kemsa faces could also have been avoided had medics been vocal about the level of corruption around the supply of medicine and equipment to hospitals at inflated prices.

The standard of facilities in many public hospitals has been very poor, putting patients at great risk, hence contributing to deaths due to avoidable negligence. Doctors and nurses have not cared to speak out about this because it works for them as patients are forced to follow them to their private practices.

Caesarean section

One serious issue of concern is the increase in the number of births through caesarean section (C-section). The procedure seems to be the norm for women who give birth in the private hospitals and a big earner for corrupt consultants. Most women don’t need it but for corruption. C-sections should be decided by a group of consultants and not just a single corrupt doctor chasing a quick buck.

The latest collapse of residential buildings in Nairobi will not be the last either. Residential buildings collapsing and taking lives has been going on for a very long time and nobody has ever been convicted for such negligence.

Even the Patel dam case ended in acquittal—as if the lives of 48 Kenyans who were swept to their death by the raging floodwater were of no value.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that corruption is playing its part in putting the lives of tenants in poorly built flats at risk of injury and even death. Fingers tend to be pointed at contractors.

But contractors and building owners do not inspect the buildings to make sure they are safe for human habitation.

That responsibility lies with building inspectors in the counties and, indeed, the Institution of Engineers of Kenya (IEK), who are expected to set the standards for safety in the construction industry.

Constant peer review of professionals in the legal, health, civil engineering sector and others would have saved the country and, indeed, the citizens a lot of heartache by ensuring that their members work within the set standards.

Given the high level of corruption, professional bodies, particularly in key departments, should have been the first to speak up on corruption and work within their bodies to help stamp out the vice. Sadly, many of such bodies have been silent as their members take advantage of gullible citizens.

Law Society of Kenya has, in the recent past, been visible on challenging constitutional matters. Although that is commendable, they also need to start clamping down on lawyers involved in fleecing government agencies through corruption and pursuing class suits for citizens affected by collapse of substandard homes.

There is the tendency in Kenya to go after the person at the bottom of the hierarchy when it comes to negligence by professionals and senior government officials. The buck need stop with professional bodies and those in command within the government. Many needless deaths can be avoided if professionals spoke out to maintain professional integrity and end corruption.

Ms Guyo is a legal researcher. [email protected]. @kdiguyo