Saturday, July 17, 2004


           Corruption is an issue that has plagued Kenya from her infancy. It begun with a simple patron – client system that has metastasized into one of Kenya’s greatest economic stumbling blocks. Kenya experiences three types of corruption (Githongo 1): Petty corruption (day to day bribes), Grand corruption (kick backs for government officials) and Looting (wholesale theft of government resources). Petty is the most prevalent, followed by Grand and the least prevalent is looting (though it is the most widely reported on). Kenyans have consistently rated corruption as the most pressing issue in society. According to a 2001 poll done by the International Republican Institute, 21% of Kenyan’s said corruption was the most pressing issue, 22% considered poverty and 15% said unemployment (Githongo 1) Corruption is not a problem only in the government. It is worth noting that all of society does play it role in promoting corruption. Many Kenyan’s do not consider bribery a form of corruption will constantly partake in the practice, and according to Transparency International Kenya, the average urban Kenyan will pay 16 bribes a month (TI 6). The frequency of bribing would show a rather insidious deterioration of morals in society: "What the judges did (corruption) however unpalatable, is merely a symptom of a society that has allowed its moral center to rot. We would be deluding our selves if we thought that getting rid of a few of them (judges) would solve our problems. Cutting off a diseased limb, however necessary, does not always address the cancer within." (Bindura)
        So far the war against graft has been undermined by a lack of political will and the wrong motivating factors. Political will lacked in the previous regime (and in this one as well) due to the fact that members of the government had been adversely mentioned or suspected in corruption cases(it is worth noting that the current Minister of Education and former vice president, has been adversely mentioned in a number of corruption cases): "The political will is lacking and the combined efforts of the Kenya police, AG, Controller and Auditor generals and parliament cannot under our present legal and political arrangement stem the loss of public money" (Githongo, 2). Moreover, the motivating factors for the previous regime were not to improve government and stem the tide of corruption, they aim was to seem to be tough on corruption so as to gain foreign aid: "without the passage of the constitutional amendment to restore KACA (Kenya anti corruption Authority) the country will once again be denied more than Kshs. 2.5 billion in external funding." Former president Moi in 2001 (Githongo 11) I would argue that the need for aid alone will not be enough to form concrete laws that fight corruption, it leads to the formulation of laws that are insufficient or that can not stand the test of the law (as the case was for KACA).
           Due to the scourge of corruption, Kenya has for the last seven years, been consistently ranked as one of the most corrupt nations in the world (according to the corruption perception index published by Transparency International). This has served to poison Kenya’s relationship with its development partners and hampered foreign investment. Moreover, it has been a leading cause of poverty in Kenya. By diverting much needed development aid to private pockets, it has served to encourage the unfair distribution of income. According to figures released in August (2003) by the Minister for Planning, Kenya has been losing about $1 billion each year for the last decade, due to corruption: "Kenya’s growth has stagnated for years, with the economy expanding just 1.1% in 2002. Part of the reason was rampant corruption costing as much as Kshs 68 billion ($932 billion) a year – nearly a quarter of annual government spending." (BBC NEWS)

        The government has done well so far in the fight against corruption. The appointment of John Githongo (TI Kenya director) to head a department of governance and ethics is very positive. Moreover, the passage of the public servants ethics bill, economics crimes bill and commissions to investigate past corruption, have been steps in the right direction. However, more still needs to be done. To begin with there are problems with the ethics bill: (and if it had not been rushed through parliament in order to fulfill IMF conditions, the problems may have been identified) The provision that bars members of parliament (MPs) from organizing and officiating in public fundraisers is wholly unnecessary and would probably not pass the constitutionality test. In addition, the fact that the wealth declaration forms are to remain secret is rather counterproductive. The aim of the laws is to make government more accountable and transparent, having this documents remain secret flies straight in the face of the spirit of the laws. The government should amend the laws to ensure that MPs can take part in fundraisers and also make wealth declaration forms public.
        The government should also guard against complacency, now that the IMF and World Bank have resumed aid. The government should move on forward with the aim of rooting out corruption in the public sector. I find it worth pointing out that the previous regime had come to power promising zero tolerance on corruption, but faltered: "A great change had occurred (after Moi took over in 1978) implied orators of the time. Gone were the days when a citizen must ‘cook tea’ (pay a bribe) in return for routine government services." (Haugerud 1) The president must also guard against graft creeping into his administration (and if reports are correct graft is making a come back): " The reemergence of graft in the new government, which came to power on an anti-corruption platform, is seen as threatening the stability of the country and scaring of potential investors." (Onyango 1). The government should also embark on a radical review of the public sector. Their needs to be a total overhaul over the civil service, in order to make it more professional and responsive to the needs of the populace.
        In addition to reforming the civil service, the government needs to embark on a PR campaign to change the culture of corruption in society. With the same vigor that the government has put into fighting the AIDS pandemic, they should embark on fighting the corruption cancer in Kenyan society.


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