Driving compliance in Kenya: Public and private sectors should collaborate to navigate low compliance levels.

  • 16 Feb 2024
  • 4 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Brian Otieno

Compliance is a critical imperative for both the public and private sectors, although the nuances of implementation vary significantly between them. The distinct approaches taken by both sectors are largely influenced by the inherent differences in organisational structures, objectives, and accountability mechanisms.

The differences notwithstanding, there are enormous lessons the public sector can learn from the private sector. For the private sector, compliance is akin to the wheels rolling smoothly, and as such, considerable investment goes into it. From having in place a dedicated and skilled team to having in place regular audits to ascertain compliance levels and form a basis for improvement, the private sector indeed has monumental lessons for the public sector.

Additionally, the private sector greatly interacts with the public sector, and these convergence points can be relied on as compliance drivers. Not only does collaboration build on the cardinal duty of the private sector as good corporate citizens, but also ensures that players in the public sector deliver on their mandate, which has a ripple effect on a sound business environment.

Understanding the compliance landscape

While the compliance nuances are starkly different for both private and public sectors, the basics of compliance cut across. Regulatory frameworks upon which players in both sectors operate exist. These frameworks are characterised by stringent operational guidelines backed by oversight structures. Suffice it to say that both sectors are firmly anchored in legal and policy frameworks, with the aim of maintaining ethical standards.

However, while both sectors are subject to regulations and policies, operational flexibility levels are greater in the private sector compared to the public sector. Industry best practices, internal policies and guidelines play an integral role, alongside national regulatory frameworks, in shaping compliance in the private sector. This blend has greatly served to drive and entrench compliance in the private sector.

Essentially, while the public sector’s compliance landscape is often more prescriptive, the private sector is hands-on as it combines legal obligations with industry-specific expectations and internally defined standards for a more dynamic and adaptable compliance environment. 

The private sector has made significant efforts to understand its compliance landscape and the nuances attached to it. They have also taken proactive steps to embed compliance in their operations by implementing various mechanisms. This is indeed a key lesson for the public sector as they have taken little or no steps to appreciate and understand their compliance terrain and take strategic steps to entrench compliance in their operations.


Making compliance a culture

It is often said that compliance is a journey and not a destination. The nature of public service comes with a deep commitment to public interest. Intricately weaving this into the fabric of every operation and organisational culture of every player in the public sector is a key step towards making compliance a culture.

In the private sector, corporate culture largely drives compliance. An organisation’s values, mission, and long-term vision shape an entity’s approach to compliance. Private sector organisations often invest in cultivating a positive ethical culture to enhance their reputation, build trust with stakeholders, and ensure sustained growth in a competitive business environment.

Bodies in the public sector are increasingly being couched as corporate bodies. Intertwining compliance with corporate values and culture is essential. The pivotal role of ethics, despite the different nuances in these sectors, must be emphasised. This integration is especially important for the public sector, and lessons can be drawn from the practices of the private sector.

The potency of strategic training and capacity-building

Information is power. Investing in the training and capacity building of personnel in both public and private sectors is essential to ensuring proper compliance. While training and capacity building in the public sector is largely centred on conflict of interest, ethical decision-making, and the proper use of public resources, aspects of training and capacity building in the private sector must be replicated as well.

The private sectoral capacity building and training initiatives extend beyond legal compliance and encompass an organisation’s values and expectations for ethical behaviour. The private sector applies training and capacity-building models that include real-world scenarios, case studies, and interactive modules to provide practical insights into ethical decision-making.

Fundamentally, emphasis on training and capacity building exists in both. However, there is a need to merge and tailor the private sector’s training focus to the public sector outline. This would create a mix between the public sector’s emphasis on building institutional capacity and the private sector’s focus on ingraining a culture of compliance and ethics within the workforce to navigate industry-specific challenges and foster responsible business or operational practices.

Bridging the divide

While the public and private sectors exhibit differences in structures and objectives, the overarching goal of compliance remains consistent: to inculcate both transparency and accountability and entrench ethical conduct. Bridging the gap between these sectors necessitates a nuanced understanding of the unique challenges each faces and the development of tailored compliance strategies that effectively address these challenges.

On one hand, the public sector operates under distinct regulatory frameworks and is driven by a commitment to public service, and on the other, the private sector’s operations and emphasis on market competitiveness require compliance approaches that navigate diverse legal landscapes, safeguard reputation, and instil a culture of ethical business conduct.

To bridge this divide effectively, collaboration and knowledge-sharing between public and private entities become paramount. Public sector organisations can benefit from insights into the private sector’s adaptability, risk management, and global compliance practices. Simultaneously, the private sector can gain valuable perspectives from the public sector’s focus on public interest, institutional capacity building, and diplomatic cooperation in tackling issues of concern such as corruption.

Moreover, fostering a culture of collaboration between the public and private sectors can lead to the development of best practices that draw on the strengths of both. This collaboration may involve joint initiatives, information exchanges, and shared resources to enhance overall compliance strategies.

In essence, the common goal of promoting transparency and ethical conduct serves as a unifying force. By acknowledging and respecting the differences between the public and private sectors, stakeholders can work collaboratively to build a comprehensive anti-corruption framework that addresses the unique challenges each sector faces while advancing the shared objectives of integrity and responsible governance.

Collaboration, therefore, is the linchpin: enabling the exchange of knowledge, resources, and best practices is essential to improving the dwindling levels of compliance in the public sector.