Launched at the Kibera Law Courts by Chief Justice Willy Mutunga in late 2012, this program received apprehension and praise in equal measure from the public and the transport sector players. Dubbed the Faini Chap Chap Mpesa, it was set to assist take care of traffic offenses fast in Nairobi. It would target offenses that warrant fines between 1000 and 10,000 Kenya shillings.
With technology catching up fast in Africa, Kenya, in East Africa has been among the top countries to cash in on the boom and today, it boasts of the best mobile money transfer and bill payment system in the world. However, it does not stop there because the same popular money transfer via mobile networks has been adopted even in the police work. Today, people transfer money via their mobile phones to pay for bails and bonds, and even court fines.
The traffic department in the Kenya Police Service has moved things a notch higher. Today, traffic offenders can pay for their tickets by same mobile money transfer service. Ok, at least that was the idea, but it has not materialized yet. A few things have contributed to the delay in the implementation of this program. However, the biggest elephant in the room in Kenya is corruption. This is a big problem and it is feared that the use of the Mpesa service to pay for traffic offenses will widen the loophole for corruption among traffic officers.
Let us look at the good and bad sides of using the mobile money transfer service to pay traffic fines and other monies related to police work in Kenya.
First, the benefits:
We can hasten the pace of the police processes, which are sluggish for lack of a slower word! Files get lost, there is a backlog of traffic cases at the court, vehicles stall and the state loses too much money. Fast execution of traffic fines and penalties would save everyone, even the government, time and money.
Decongestion of the cells: When arrested for traffic offenses, the offenders are usually locked up in police cells until the next court day, or until they can be bailed out. This leads to the offenders opting to part with big bribes rather than spend a weekend in a pathetic police cell. The police are known for mounting crackdowns on Fridays, when court day is far away on Monday.
Just why should we be wary about this system?
One, the offenders will be likely to commit more offenses! After all, they know that the price to pay is little. Again, hi-tech crime in Kenya is very high and there is no guarantee that traffic officers will not collude with some corrupt people in the mobile telephony providers to find a way around the genuine fine payment systems set up for the police and divert that money in their pockets.
If a police officer does not have to bring offenders to the police station, chances are that plenty of cash will find its way to his pockets, and the culprits will go free.