Kenya: Alcoblow Tests, Racket, NTSA, Crooked Police

5 December 2019

The National Police Service deserves kudos for the bold decision to quash the Alcoblow tests racket that had gone on for years. Ever since President Kenyatta ordered the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) off the roads and handed the responsibility back to the traffic police, some senior officers saw an opportunity to illegally enrich themselves.

Indeed, it would not be long before it became evident that the tests were not serving the intended purpose. They have been veritable cash cows for the crooked officers. Roadblocks have been routinely mounted along major roads in Nairobi and other towns at night, mostly during weekends, and hundreds of motorists arrested. However, only a handful of the errant drivers are ever produced in court. The majority are set free after paying bribes of up to Sh20,000 and an extra Sh10,000 in car towing charges.

While the intention is to get drunk drivers off the roads, which is absolutely essential to enhance road safety, some of the officers have only been out to make money. Many motorists pay up to avoid the shame of being locked up and arraigned. The Sh2 million said to have been collected every night is rather conservative.

The investigation leading to the withdrawal of the extortionists from the roads is a big step in fighting corruption in the police service. It's possible to get drunks off the roads without having to subject every motorist to the humiliating drink tests. In other countries, these checks are carried out by mobile traffic police units that monitor the behaviour of drivers on the road and target only those individuals who appear unable to control their vehicles.

We fully agree with Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai that roadblocks must be used sparingly, and only if authorised by regional police bosses. But then, the extortionists with the police service must be pursued and brought to book.

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