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Kenya, Burundi trail EAC in war on graft

bribery, CORRUPTION
High levels of unemployment in the country, especially among young people, is fanning bribery. FILE PHOTO | NMG 
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Graft in Kenya and Burundi worsened last year, a new survey showed, defying a trend of improvement by other East African partners.

Kenya was ranked at position 144 out of 180 globally in the Transparency International (TI) 2018 global Corruption Perception Index (CPI), a drop from 143 the previous year. The country’s state of corruption ranking also slipped one point to 27 in 2018 compared to 2017.

The TI state of corruption ranking works on a scale of 0-100 where a graft-free nation is awarded a score of 100. The CPI measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption in countries and territories worldwide.

It is a composite index, combining surveys and assessments of corruption.

Although Kenya was ranked at position three in East Africa, it was the only country in the region alongside Burundi that registered a dip in ranking of 2018 compared to the previous year — an indication of the lapses in the fight graft by the two countries.

Burundi dropped to position 170 in 2018 from 157 previously.

Rwanda was the highest ranked in the EAC at position 48, a retention from the previous year. Tanzania was ranked 99th globally in 2018, an improvement from 103 the previous year.

Uganda also climbed from position 151 in 2017 to position 149 last year.

Kenya’s drop is likely to poke holes in the ongoing anti-graft campaigns amid concern that many crooks were circumventing the justice system to carry on with the vice.

Recent reports have shown graft remained rife in key State agencies with billions od shillings in public funds remaining unaccounted for.

Data from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) shows the average national bribe paid for services in Kenya increased sharply in the 2016/2017 financial year owing to a race for tenders and employment.

Bribery and embezzlement or misappropriation of public funds topped the list of types of complaints received by the EACC.

The average bribe paid for services nationwide rose to Sh7,081.05 in 2016 from Sh5,648.58 in 2015, representing a 25 per cent increase, according to a nationwide survey by the commission.

It says 91 per cent of corruption reports were lodged against low and middle level public officers.

“Obtaining tenders raked in the highest average bribe of Sh196,987.82 followed by seeking employment with Sh63,687.39,” the commission said in a report.

Scrambling for contracts in education, railways, roads, ports and real estate has triggered procurement battles that have in many cases sucked in key government departments and senior public officials.

Last year, corruption scandals rocked many agencies in the country, including the National Youth Service (NYS), Kenya Bureau of Standards, the National Cereals and Produce Board, the Kenya Pipeline Company, Kenya Power and the Youth Enterprise Development Fund.

High levels of unemployment in the country, especially among young people, is also fanning bribery.

TI-Kenya called for the translation of anti-corruption commitments to action.

Effective anti-corruption efforts in the country are contingent on political will, effective institutions and an engaged citizenry.

“Some of the key institutions in the anti-corruption chain have faced significant challenges in delivering their mandates mainly because of a pervading culture of impunity among the political and economic elite,” said Executive Director for Transparency International Kenya Samuel Kimeu.

“They further face budgetary deficits that impede optimal performance. Political goodwill and leadership are particularly important in mobilising citizen participation and support,” he added.

TI-Kenya recommended that the Executive prioritise finalising and putting into effect a National Ethics and Anti-Corruption policy to guide the interventions geared towards fighting graft.

Additionally, all arms of government should apply constitutional stipulations on leadership and integrity for the public office and elective positions.

TI-Kenya also called for the enactment of key legislations recommended by the Attorney General’s Taskforce Report on the review of the legal, policy and institutional framework for fighting corruption of 2015 such as the Whistleblower Protection Bill and the False Claims Bill.

The report noted that despite government efforts on e- procurement, there is a need for a more robust mechanism to be implemented to enhance its functionalities at all the stages of the public procurement cycle.

It also highlighted a need to create accountability in campaign financing for candidate and political parties.

To enhance social accountability, there is also a need to fully implement wealth declarations and lifestyle audits by digitising the declaration forms and making them public.

Some of the 20 countries that have significantly improved their CPI scores since 2012 include Argentina, Senegal, Guyana and Côte D’Ivoire. Sixteen countries significantly decreased their scores, including Australia, Chile, Malta, Hungary and Turkey.

The United States earned its lowest score on the CPI in seven years and dropped out of the top 20 countries in the CPI.

The country has experienced threats to its system of checks and balances, as well as an erosion of ethical norms at the highest levels of power, according to the report.

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