Report by Maraga team exposes rampant bribery in police service

Police officers at a checkpoint in Kisumu.

Police officers at a checkpoint in Kisumu.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • National Taskforce in police reforms picked out issues that need to be addressed in Kenya's security sector.
  • Police roadblocks, whose main purpose is to enhance road safety, have now become a hotbed of corruption.

Rampant bribery at the helm of police leadership that sees junior officers part with up to Sh600,000 to secure slots in the National Police Service (NPS), abetting of crime for kickbacks and blatant disregard for traffic rules by public vehicle operators of vehicles owned by security officials.

These have been picked out as issues that need to be addressed in a report handed over to President William Ruto this week.

And have you ever received those messages said to be sent by prisoners to con you out of your hard-earned money? Well, a Kenya Prisons Service (KPS) officer was most likely involved, colluding with inmates, providing them with phones and in the event of a successful conning of an unsuspecting victim; receives part of the loot with the criminals.

It is also the same officers who facilitate the movement of outlawed items in prisons including drugs and petty trade in the State-run detaining facilities.

The recently released report from the National Taskforce on police reforms chaired by retired Chief Justice David Maraga listed problems in the security sector.

Rampant corruption, nepotism, cronyism, favouritism also mar processes of promotion, deployment, transfers, recruitment and issuance of stores with senior leadership of the NPS and National Youth Service being found to be greatly “disconnected” from daily realities of junior officers.

Police roadblocks, whose main purpose is to enhance safety through random checks by officers on vehicles and goods being ferried via major roads, have now become a hotbed of corruption, effectively giving them the name of “corruption toll stations where loot collected is shared up to the highest levels of hierarchy of police leadership”.

“The taskforce envisages the use of technology in the detection of traffic infractions and the attendant fines becoming cashless by use of technology…the taskforce also recommended the amendment of Section 65 of the NPS Act within six months and abolition of police roadblocks and their replacement with mobile patrol units,” part of the report said.

So bad is nepotism that at times, there are command challenges when family members serve at the same station making some workstations being operated like family affairs.

Often blasted for asking Kenyans to fuel their vehicles whenever they are asked to follow up on issues, the police complained to the taskforce that the 450 litres per month provision per vehicle was insufficient. This is especially true for operations conducted in vast counties. The State has been asked to consolidate fuel provision and also plan to modernise Services’ equipment.

Hiring is also not transparent and accountable resulting in declined standards of professionalism and issues including recruitment, training and promotion effectively giving leeway for that competence gaps in the service.

To remedy this leadership problem, the taskforce recommended fresh vetting by an independent panel appointed by the President for all officers of rank of Senior Superintendent of Police (SSPP) and above.

The Cabinet Secretary of Interior also has a role to play, and is to develop a bill and urge Parliament to enact legislation to reinstate recruitment of the Inspector General, Deputy Inspectors General and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.

Junior officers deployed to marginalised areas for special operations often feel forgotten with some, working out of their stations for more than the recommended year effectively demoralising them and affecting their execution of assigned duties.

The report has proposed that regulations be formulated to limit operational deployments to a period not exceeding six months.

Unless those deployed to the specialised units, no officer should serve in one county for more than three years. Some have no career progression, serving in the same rank since joining, until retirement, sowing seeds of discontent and low morale.

Constant wrangles between the National Police Service Commission and the NPS leadership with the latter constantly usurping the Commission’s roles thus hampering the NPSC’s role of streamlining the management and promoting professionalism and accountability in the NPS.

To address this tussle, the taskforce urged the government to consider initiating a negotiated exit, or any other legally recognised modality, for the current Commissioner of NPSC.

Since reorganisation of NPS constituent services in 2018 that merged KPS and Administration Police Service did not sit well with the latter claiming they are treated as juniors to their KPS counterparts and felt their issues are not being given necessary regard by the NPS leadership.

This merger also led to significant increase in crime and undermined national security. This, happened after the absorption of a large fraction of the AP officers into the KPS and reduction of their mandate at county level to protection to critical infrastructure undermined the preventive community-based policing which the AP Service historically excelled in.

To stem this sibling rivalry between the KPS and APS officers, there should be a restructuring of the command of the two Services and staffing of NPS by maintaining the distinction between the Kenya Police Service, Administrative Police Service and the Kenya Prison Services only up to the NPS inspectorate level.

“The designation of NPS gazette officers as NPS officers without affiliation to any particular Service, and subjecting all gazette officers to the same training and promotional standards and thereafter deploying them for duty in any of the three Services,” the report stated.