How my investigation work won me the Transparency Integrity Award


Transparency Integrity Award Winner Ms. Vexina Mueni during an interview at Nation Centre, Nairobi on December 9, 2023.

Photo credit: Bonface Bogita| NMG

What you need to know:

  • Vexina Mueni was recognised three months ago for her acts of integrity within and beyond Machakos County.
  • Vexina is the programmes officer at Neema Foundation, an organisation that advocates for climate change and social accountability.

The Transparency Integrity trophy is still hot in Ms Vexina Mueni’s cabinet. The 46-year-old was recognised three months ago for her acts of integrity within and beyond Machakos County. Vexina is the programmes officer at Neema Foundation, an organisation that advocates for climate change and social accountability.

“Tackling issues of corruption is not easy, because they come with setbacks. Occasionally I handle sensitive cases, which comes with threats and isolation. Slaying this dragon involves telling people that money has been eaten or misappropriated, but at the end of the day, not everyone believes.

Some turn into critics and question whether I am following up on the case just because I did not receive my share of the misappropriated funds. Others want to know how I benefit from investigating corruption cases, while others even believe I get paid to expose corruption in the county.

I just focus on raising awareness and educating community members on reporting corruption cases. However, this can be difficult because, for instance, you may discover that a community member is involved in a land dispute but the person opposing the land dispute is wealthy and can even buy justice. What we do to help the victims is to link them with a professional lawyer who can help them obtain justice in court. We do this through the Advocacy and Legal Advice Centres (ALAC) and TIKenya offices. I have successfully argued cases before the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) many times before.

That is why I burst into tears when my name was called as the winner of the Transparency Integrity Award that night. Those tears came as I reflected on the journey I had taken in fighting for public funds. I thought about my late parents at that moment, and I wished they had been there to accompany me as I received the award.

They died when I was eight years old, and my older sister raised me and saw me through school. Unfortunately, she later died too. That night, I missed them so, so much. If they had been there, they would have seen how much I've grown and confirmed that I haven't let them down.

That made me emotional, and tears rolled down my cheeks. I told myself, there is always a God. I was overjoyed because fighting corruption in this country is not easy.

I am grateful for this award. It belongs to my community and to those who saw my potential and nominated me. But, once again, I will not tire because Kenya requires all of us. I look forward to a time when my great-grandchildren will look back and say, "I did this for the community." I hope future generations will emulate what I have done.

My journey began when I was a student taking a course in community development. That's when I joined the Machakos Residence Association, which looks into fund misappropriation and accountability for public funds. I was the custodian in Machakos.

Later, I joined the Foundation for Women's Rights in Kenya, where we advocated for the implementation of the two-thirds gender rule. We went round educating the public in Machakos county on why it is important for women to participate in leadership and to ensure that issues affecting women are written in the Constitution.

We spearheaded that initiative, and I became one of the Trainer of Trainees. Transparency International engaged me as a community mobiliser around devolution in 2013, and I've been championing corruption and social accountability issues since then.

My entire life has been hectic, and while I never imagined that I would one day be handling corruption cases, I can say that my life has revolved around issues of accountability.

For example, after high school, I joined a youth group where we performed skits to educate the community on how to eliminate vices in society.

This was not always easy, and it did not always go well with people. I recall being arrested while performing, and the General Service Unit (GSU) officers sometimes taking us off the stage and driving us back to Machakos. I was 20 at the time, and the only female in the group.

I also chair the Machakos County Gender Based Violence (GBV) Technical Working Group where we bring people who handle issues to do with gender based violence. I've been in the committee since 2014, and through my leadership we managed to construct a GBV centre in Machakos, which we will open soon.