By a show of hands, how many Kenyans believe that we are a hopelessly corrupt nation? By a show of hands again, how many of us believe that corruption is more of a social issue than it is legal or political?
Well, I see many hands. And it’s absolutely understandable why a number of us would view corruption in our nation as a gangrene which is slowly eating into the fabric. I agree with you fully. Corruption in Kenya is a menace. However, by use of statistical tools and economic indicators are we able to estimate the level of corruption in this nation?
And what better way to answer the question than by turning to corruption indices prepared by organisations such as Transparency International?
Because these indices cover many countries and provide comparability and that paints them as reliable. And Kenya has generally performed worse in these rankings as compared to its neighbours.
What is corruption?
Corruption basically comes in two forms. Petty corruption – which is quite rampant – takes place when citizens are asked for chai to get services which they are entitled to. Should we blame the lack of information or morality? Do Kenyans generally prefer shortcuts?
The amounts that they accept are small and might seem negligible, but have we ever calculated the cost of these bribes? And then we go to the mother of them all, large-scale corruption which is a preserve of the big fish. Inflated tenders; one person with different companies awarded all tenders; fictitious companies being paid for contracts that they never executed (read Anglo-Leasing).
Transparency International has been in the forefront of releasing corruption perception indices for different countries. Kenya is ranked at 25 per cent and at position 139 out of 168 countries and territories. While many Kenyans have swallowed the statistics hook, line and sinker, few have interrogated the statistics.
Perception indices are derived from qualitative data (read subjective) and they can be notoriously misleading. Why? Because there are many issues that affect perception. In Kenya, we have a vibrant media which is light years ahead of our neighbours. Arguably, that can be one of the reasons why Kenya seems to be doing badly.
What is the government doing to fight corruption?
First and foremost, President Uhuru Kenyatta has been steadfast in his commitment to fighting corruption. About 337 cases relating to corruption are in court and of those, 68 involved senior Kenyans, among them MPs, governors, and cabinet and principal secretaries. That is unprecedented.
In his 2015 Jamhuri Day celebrations speech, the President reiterated his commitment to end graft. And I quote him, “Corruption is our great enemy: We need to fight it with the same tenacity and unity of purpose with which we have fought, and won, other battles ... Corruption kills.”
Not to give in to the overwhelming menace of corruption, President Kenyatta announced that all companies doing business with the county and national governments in the future must sign and adhere to a business code of conduct. He further declared that all customs and revenue officers would be vetted.
Further, banks that are discovered to break anti-money-laundering laws will forfeit their licences while their directors will be held responsible for aiding money laundering.
The World Bank’s annual Country Policy and Institutional Assessment review by International Development Association, the World Bank Group’s fund for the world’s poorest countries, can give us a sneak preview on the graft state in Kenya. According to this report, Kenya is among African countries that have improved policy environment. Kenya’s Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability in this rating is solidly and firmly ahead.
It is, therefore, clear that the Head of State is committed to the fight against graft. But the fight against corruption cannot be won by the Executive alone. There is a need for concerted efforts.
The investigative authorities and the Judiciary must continue to oil their engines of change for an escalated reform pace. In conclusion, all sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya. Citizens must, therefore, ensure that integrity and accountability are upheld. Let’s say no to all forms of corruption.
The writer is Runyenjes MP