Kindiki move on Nyayo House cartels laudable

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Interior Cabinet Secretary Prof Kithure Kindiki last week threatened to seal off Nyayo House, the Immigration Department headquarters in Nairobi, and declare it a crime scene owing to rampant corruption there.

This has sparked a flurry of activities that would hopefully end the suffering Kenyans have been going through while seeking passports. On Monday, Immigration Director-General Evelyn Cheluget announced plans to bolster the staffing capacity for processing passports, especially for individuals requiring urgent services.

This is a good move since according to available data, the number of those seeking passports increased from 390,432 in 2019-2020 to 518,279 in 2022/23.

In the past, shortage of e-passport booklets, frequent breakdown of personalisation machines and limited storage capacity of current servers have been cited as the reasons behind delays in processing the crucial document.

But there is no denying the corruption is the elephant in the room. Indeed, there was a time crooks could hover around Nyayo House looking for people desperately seeking passports and offer to fast-track the process as long as one was willing to give a bribe.

That ended during the tenure of former Interior CS Dr Fred Matiang’i but the vice seems to be making a comeback, which is why we hail Prof Kithure for his stern stance.

Even if the ministry acquires new passport printing machines, as it is planning to, service delivery will never be optimal if the appetite for bribes continues. 

He should consider following up on Principal Secretary Julius Bitok’s promise in July that passport services will be decentralised to all counties and more application offices opened in Nairobi to decongest Nyayo House.

The CS should also extend the crackdown to other departments, including the National Registration Bureau and the Department of Civil Registration which are equally dens of graft.

Other CSs manning ministries offering critical civic services should also follow suit.

For instance, it pains when a retired civil servant has to bribe someone at the Pensions Department to get his pension failure to which he will have to wait for eternity. 

While President William Ruto has time and again promised to be ruthless on the war on corruption, especially with regard to those plundering public resources which is good, it is the “small” unethical practices such such solicitting for bribes in government offices that does greater harm to the public.

Imagine a scenario where one has been given a scholarship to study abroad but has to wait for eight months to get a passport. Unless of course, he parts with a bribe.

On social media, some digruntled Kenyans say they were asked for up to Sh50,000.

Another said she was asked to give Sh2,000 to get a certificate of good conduct from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations. Some said they applied online and go for fingerprinting but do not get the certificate only to later receive a notification that it had expired despite spending Sh1,000. Yet, this is a critical document especially for job seekers.

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