Good governance happens when public and corporate affairs are managed effectively, efficiently and in response to critical needs of the society.  The key pillars for good governance are ethical conduct, rule of law, accountability and transparency.  Chapter six of the Constitution of Kenya spells out the need for good governance and so do most organizational policies.  Unfortunately despite the concrete provisions on good governance in all spheres, Kenya seems to be wallowing in a miasma of mediocrity in the area.

Daily newspapers and social media are laden with disheartening stories of rampant corruption in public offices and outright plunder. All levels of society are affected with the vice of corruption; be it students accused of cheating in national examinations, the police service receiving the corruption trophy, tenderpreneurs in collusion with senior public officers receiving billions of public funds for delivering nothing and so on ad nauseum

Thankfully, in the last few months, the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) and other government investigative agencies have upped their game in the fight against corruption.  Indeed it seems that there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel, although again, a traumatized public is still holding its breath for chances of an oncoming train.  As the cases of corruption come to light and suspects continue to be arraigned in court, it is shocking to see the ease with which trusted public officers had embraced corruption and unethical conduct. Recent court arraignments seem to vindicate popular bloggers who for a long time revealed corruption dossiers to the public from social media rooftops. Unfortunately despite the whole ruckus, the wheels of justice in Kenya turn ever so slowly effectively denying the public restitution. It is not lost to the public that after the initial media expose followed by dramatic arraignment of suspects in courts, there doesn’t seem to be conclusive resolution.

Poor governance and corruption scandals traumatize the public and taxpayers who turn into a resigned, cynical, detached and angry lot.  This creates a toxic operating environment in the economy where insults, accusations, threats, shame and guilt become the order of the day while business closures, job cuts, depression and family disintegration the ugly consequences.

It is clear to most citizens that there is an urgent need to transform the trajectory the country is currently on or we forever hold our peace as we possibly join the league of failed states in the not too distant future.  As the laudable fight against corruption and proposals like the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) continue, it is wise that professionals and leaders at all levels scratch below the surface to ensure we are not just engaging in a street light search. 

As the common street light search story goes, a police officer is patrolling a street one night when he sees a distressed man crawling around under a streetlight searching for something.  The officer walks over and asks the man what the problem is.  The man turns and says he dropped the keys of his car and he is searching for them.  The kind police officer joins the man in the search.  After a few minutes a pedestrian stops by and asks what the problem is.  The police officer explains that the distressed man dropped the keys of his car and they are searching for them.  The kind pedestrian joins the two in the search.  Soon, several pedestrians join the search for the lost car keys under the streetlight. After a while, with no success, the police officer asks: “Are you sure this is where you dropped the keys?” “No, I am not sure of that at all,’ the man answers. ‘I may have dropped them over there at the alley” The man gestures to the alley across the street.  “Then why aren’t we looking across the street in the alley?” The puzzled police officer asks.  “Well, the alley is dark and murky, I started searching here, because this is where there is light and good ground,” the man confidently answered.

This story may explain the elusive search for the key to end corruption and embrace good governance in Kenya.  It is probable that the search for the key is being done under a bright streetlight while it was actually dropped miles away in a very dark murky alley.   The dark alleys in Kenya may be historical injustices, unbridled greed, disconnection with divinity and other fundamental lapses of integrity upon which the Nation is built.  For the sake of our future and the future of our children’s children, it is urgent that professionals and leaders of this generation stand up, take courage and head to the dark murky alley where the key to good governance and ethical leadership may have dropped.

The writer is a Corporate Governance Consultant, HR Specialist and Executive Coach.

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