The fight against corruption is going digital with the launch of a website that promises to “uncover the price of corruption”.
Dubbed I-paid-a-bribe, the site is an initiative of Mr Anthony Ragui and the Wamini Trust. Ipaidabribe.or.ke went live early in November and by mid-this month, it had recorded 46 bribery incidents totalling about Sh207,000 in corrupt transactions.
“The website provides a platform for people to report their experiences with bribery and corruption. It will also help us quantify the cost of corruption and the impact it has on our economies,” said Mr Ragui.
The initiative is Kenya’s replica of an Indian site launched in 2008 to help the public fight corruption. The Indian site has recorded over Sh1.3 billion in dirty deals across 453 cities and 21 governmental departments. The data has been used by some government agencies to develop anti-corruption policies.
“If you just give Sh200 to an officer, it might not seem like much. But it adds up and when we are exposed to the big numbers, we realise how much corruption is hurting us.”
In addition to counting the amounts transacted in corrupt deals, the website also breaks down these numbers by sector and region.
Currently, the Kenya Police is leading on the site’s index with Sh106,000 in under-the-table transactions while Nairobi and Embu are the two counties with the most incidents. Globally, Transparency International ranks Kenya at 154 out of 182 countries in the Corruption Perception Index 2011.
It is this trend that Ipaidabribe.or.ke wants to change by giving the public an opportunity to air their views and report corruption cases. This way, Kenya may be able to quantifying the cost of bribery in the country.
Ipaidabribe.or.ke interactive allows citizens to tell personal stories under the cloak of anonymity.
“I was speeding,” admits one report. “I was talking on my phone … so when the cop stopped me and asked for my licence… and demanded Sh2,000. I told him I had Sh500. He took it.”
It is not just negative stories that are reported, stories of situations were corruption was resisted or unnecessary are also told. Transparency International says that this ability to rally strangers makes the Internet invaluable to the fight against graft.
“New media provides anyone with an opportunity to voice their concerns and engage in the fight against corruption,” the organisation says.
Ipaidabribe.or.ke plans to roll out an SMS service, making the site even more potent given that 25 million Kenyans own mobile handsets.
Mr Ragui hopes that the Kenyan site will have success like the Indian one, not only in the country, but also in the region.
But there are serious ethical considerations that have been raised about the I-Paid-A-Bribe model.
People may use the site to slander rivals or to pursue personal agendas. Mr Ragui is convinced that this will not happen because of the strict anonymity policy.
“No names are revealed. We have software that automatically deletes names, so you can’t really hurt anyone personally,” he told Smart Company.
As for his own integrity and the credibility of the data, he said: “I have nothing to gain. I don’t want to get into a position of power, so I have no reason to manipulate data.”