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New mega-scandals put doubt on Kenya’s anti-graft credentials

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Barely half-way through 2018 the country has registered a series of fresh mega corruption scandals, raising concern about its capacity to safeguard public funds.

Topping the list is the Sh9 billion procurement scandal at the National Youth Service(NYS) that has seen 50 suspects charged in court including former chief executive Richard Ndubai and the ex-Youth Affairs Principal Secretary Lillian Omollo.

Several other state agencies including the Kenya Bureau of Standards(Kebs), the National Cereals and Produce Board(NCPB), the Kenya Pipeline Corporation(KPC), Kenya Power and the Youth Enterprise Development are also facing graft claims and investigations.

Official data by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission(EACC) shows corruption remains a big challenge with the number of cases reported remaining on the rise.

For instance, the total number of cases handled by the EACC increased by 2.3 per cent from 7,917 in 2015/16 to 8,096 in 2016/17, of 89 were approved for prosecution by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution(ODPP).

The persistent cases of corruption have limited Kenya’s fight against the scourge. A latest survey by Transparency International(TI) showed that Kenya has made a dismal improvement in the fight against corruption. In the TI 2017 Global Perceptions Index, Kenya scored 28 points out of the possible 100, a slight improvement from 26 points in 2016 and 25 in 2015. However, the score is still lower than the combined average score for Africa which is 32.

The TI index, which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople, uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.

Botswana, Seychelles and Rwanda are among African countries that are less corrupt scoring 61, 60 and 55 respectively, TI said, while Somali, South Sudan and Libya scored poorly at an index of 9,12 and 17 respectively.

A separate survey by the EACC confirms the frustrations in eradicating graft in Kenya with statistics indicating that the average national bribe paid for services in the country has risen sharply, catapulted by a scramble for tenders and jobs.

The average bribe paid for services nationwide climbed to Sh7,081.05 in 2016 from Sh5,648.58 in 2015, marking a 25 per cent leap, the EACC said in a survey report for the 2016/17 fiscal year.

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

Lucrative tenders for key projects in sectors such as education, railways, roads, ports and real estate have triggered a maddening scramble among various supply and contractor firm, leading to unethical practices such as bribery and manipulation of tenders.

The EACC 2016/17 report further showed that 48 per cent of the graft complaints were against low level personnel such as chiefs, assistant chiefs, clerks, and council law enforcement officers while 43 per cent of the grievances were pointed at middle level officers such as inspectors and procurement officers.

The private sector in Kenya has not be spared the menace of corruption with several of them opting to sack employees for fraud. A report released in March by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) showed that economic crimes by mid-level managers have become the biggest threat to companies in Kenya, overturning a trend where junior and senior management were most connected to internal fraud.

The report showed that economic crimes committed by middle-level managers have grew from 29 per cent in 2016 to 41 per cent in 2018.

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