11 July 2019

Kenya: Government Failing to Halt Upsurge in Graft, Citizens Say

Photo: Jeff Angote/Daily Nation
(file photo).

Large majorities of Kenyans believe that corruption is worsening and that the government is failing to halt the upsurge, a global graft-fighting organisation reported on Thursday.

Two-thirds of Kenyans polled by Transparency International perceive corruption as having increased in the previous 12 months, while an even larger share -- 71 percent -- say the government is not responding adequately to this spreading scourge.

NEW SURVEY

Growing numbers of Kenyans who use public services complain that they have to pay bribes, Transparency International found in the new Africa edition of its Global Corruption Barometer.

The Berlin-based NGO said that 45 percent of surveyed Kenyans reported incidents of bribery in the previous 12 months, compared to 37 percent in 2015.

Kenyan police were cited as the leading recipients of bribes, with increasing percentages of citizens saying they also had to make illicit payoffs to public schools, utilities and public clinics.

Substantial and growing portions of the public view key Kenyan institutions as entirely or mostly corrupt, added the report prepared in partnership with the Afrobarometer research network.

About a third of the 1599 Kenyans polled for the report regard the institution of the presidency as tinged with corruption.

Perceptions of members of Parliament are even more negative, with almost half of those surveyed saying at least some MPs are corrupt. An almost identical share held the same negative opinion of government officials at both the national and local levels.

But improvements in perception were registered in regard to judges and magistrates, with 28 percent in the latest poll seeing the courts as corrupt, compared to 33 percent who offered that view in 2015.

CULTURE OF IMPUNITY

More than three-quarters of Kenyans said they feared retaliation if they reported corruption. And a diminished share -- 54 percent, down from 58 percent in 2015 -- voice confidence that ordinary citizens can make a difference in the fight against graft.

Commenting on the report's findings, Transparency International's Kenya programmes manager Sheila Masinde pointed to "a pervading culture of impunity among the political and economic elite."

Evading punishment for misdeeds is "the very foundation upon which systems that embolden and facilitate the corrupt are built," Ms Masinde added in an emailed response to questions from The Daily Nation.

"And if impunity is not demolished, all efforts to bring an end to corruption are in vain."

"Responsible institutions must ensure that all cases of corruption are thoroughly investigated, prosecuted and sanctioned, with no exceptions," she said.

Protection mechanisms must also be put in place to ensure that citizens can report instances of corruption without fear of reprisal or intimidation, Ms Masinde added.

"For us in Kenya enacting the Whistleblower Protection Bill is key in assuring the public that their safety is guaranteed if they report corruption."

AFRICAN COUNTRIES

Kenya is among the half-dozen African countries with the highest rates of reported bribery. The Democratic Republic of Congo ranks as the most pervasively corrupt country included in the Transparency International report, with 80 percent of those surveyed in the DRC saying they pay bribes.

Mauritius has the lowest overall bribery rate (five percent), followed by Botswana (seven percent), Cabo Verde (eight percent), Namibia (11 percent) and Lesotho (14 percent).

The poorest Africans are found to pay bribes twice as often as the richest. And young people pay more bribes than do those over 55 years of age.

"Corruption is hindering Africa's economic, political and social development," said Transparency International Managing Director Patricia Moreira.

"It is a major barrier to economic growth, good governance and basic freedoms, like freedom of speech or citizens' right to hold governments to account."

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