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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Corruption: Study Puts Kenya in the Lead in East Africa

Kenya is about to overtake Nigeria to become the most corrupt nation in Africa. A study released by Transparency International shows corruption index rising in virtually all the institutions,including the parliament.
Joe Kamaliza (not his real name), a secondary school teacher sold his small plot of land to enable his wife, Madam, to run for a political seat as a councilor in Kenya’s General Election in December 2007. His hope – and that of his family in general - was that Madam’s election would bring power, fame and mainly wealth to the family. But later Mr. Kamaliza acknowledged, “We found out – once she was elected – that the salary wasn’t enough. We would not recover what we had spent, even if Madam stayed on as a councilor throughout the five year-term.”
There were options, of course. An obvious one was for Madam to be elected chairman of an important committee such as the Finance Committee. With such an election, she would get enough opportunities for corruption to recover the family’s expenditure and enable it to get the kind of wealth, fame and power it expected.
It was however, a project requiring a fresh expenditure to bribe the councilors to vote in Madam’s favor as the finance committee chairman. So the Kamaliza family sold the only thing of value they had left - their car. And using the money to bribe the councilors, Madam was elected the chairman of the Finance Committee. Today, in a few short years, the Kamaliza family is famous, powerful and rich. And corruption has become their way of life.
Cost of legislation in parliament
The story of the Kamaliza family, which is true, although the names are fictitious, illustrates the depth of corruption that has engulfed Kenya, from the most humble institution right up to parliament itself where a debate recently raged over who is more corrupt than whom. According to some members of parliament (MPs), there is hardly a debate in the house where there has not been an exchange of money. Bribes are said to range between Shs50, 000 to Shs100, 000 - some US$714 to $1,429 – depending on the perceived importance of the issues involved. To sway enough members of parliament (MPs) to support an agenda, some Shs2 million – about $28,571 is needed, according to one MP.
The Vicious Cycle
Important bills are stalled, thrown out or passed because of corruption, not merit. Notable among them is the so-called Goldenberg scandal, a multi-billion shillings public funds theft case against a gold dealer,Kamlesh Pattni.
Pattni, a Kenyan of Asian origin, in cohort with senior government officials, hatched a gold export compensation scheme in which he was paid billions of shillings as compensation in false claims that he had exported the commodity. The “exports” were said to have earned the country much needed foreign exchange, thus deserving of compensation as a reward. The scheme, which led to the biggest scandal ever in the country’s history, bankrupted the government of President Daniel arap Moi and led to his undignified exit from office in 2002.
With President Moi out, Kenyans were optimistic that the new government led by university- trained economist and former Vice President, Mr. Mwai Kibaki, was going to be different. Soon however, it became clear that Mr. Kibaki was not different from Mr. Moi in his style of administration. In addition, Mr. Moi, it was said, had left behind a strong band of his supporters to frustrate any policy designed to follow up corruption cases under his rule. In deed, such efforts, where they have been initiated, have led to further, sensational corruption cases. For example, efforts to prosecute Pattni resulted in a Grand Regency Hotel scandal, in which high-ranking Kibaki-government officials clandestinely agreed to sell a luxury hotel in Nairobi owned by Pattni to offset the money stolen in Goldenberg Scandal. In a plot that involved the Kenya Central Bank, the officials went ahead to secretly sell the hotel to the Libyan Government of Muammar Kaddafi at a price much lower than its market price. The price difference,in millions of shillings, it was widely believed, went to the officials.
An attempt by Kenyans to remove the Kibaki Government over corruption and incompetence in the 2007 elections failed because of massive election corruption that led to the displacement and death of many innocent Kenyans and brought about the current coalition government with Kibaki remaining the President and opposition leader, Raila Odinga, becoming the Prime Minister. The arrangement followed an international initiative led by former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan. But even with the coalition government, corruption has continued to rise unabated.
Youthful, Overnight Millionaires
The result of all this is that Kenya is now among the top six most corrupt countries in Africa after Nigeria, Chad, Cote d’ Ivoire, Congo Kinshasa, and Angola. A study just released by the Transparency International actually gives Kenya a corruption index of 45 per cent and declares it the most corrupt country in East Africa. The study shows the Kenyan police competing with the country’s Ministry of Defense to lead the pack of corrupt institutions, followed by the judiciary and courts, the public service and parliament.
A long serving and respected member of the Parliament and former cabinet minister, Mr. William Ole Ntimama is one of the prominent Kenyans appalled by the situation. He is particularly saddened by new, youthful MPs who, when elected, come to parliament with unpolished, twisted shoes. “Overnight, they become millionaires with designer shoes and sharp Italian suits.”

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